1 NOVEMBER 2018
|1.||GS II: POLITY – CBI||Share non-confidential info on Rafale deal, SC tells govt.|
|2.||GS II: SOCIAL – UNREST||16 ex-PAC jawans held guilty for Hashimpura massacre|
|3.||GS III: ENVIRONMENT – POLLUTION||Only ‘green’ crackers can be sold in Delhi, says SC|
|4.||GS II: SOCIAL – HEALTH||Madras HC bans online sale of drugs|
|5.||GS III: ECONOMY – INDICATORS||India jumps to 77th rank in the Ease of Doing Business Index|
|6.||GS III: DISASTER MANAGEMENT||Arunachal safe as China river barrier breaches again|
|7.||GS II: GOVERNANCE – POLICY||Towering statue of Patel dedicated to the nation|
|8.||GS II: SOCIAL – UNREST||RSS demands law to construct Ram temple|
|9.||GS II: INTERNATIONAL – ASIA||Pak. acquits Asia Bibi of blasphemy|
|10.||GS III: ECONOMY – BANKING||RBI firm despite govt. seeking consultation under Section 7|
|11.||GS III: ECONOMY – STOCKS||FPIs go on a selling spree in October|
|12.||GS II: SOCIAL – MEDIA||Be ready to trace the origin of messages, WhatsApp told|
|13.||GS III: S&T – SPACE||NASA’s Kepler space telescope to retire|
GS II: POLITY – CBI
Share non-confidential info on Rafale deal, SC tells govt.
- The Supreme Court gave the government 10 days to provide petitioners, including former Union Ministers Yashwant Sinha and Arun Shourie, information which can be “legitimately placed in the public domain” about the Rafale deal.
- This information would be sourced from a confidential note handed over by the government to the Supreme Court recently.
- The note details core information on the various stages of the decision-making process, which led to the deal to buy the 36 fighter jets.
- A Bench of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justices U.U. Lalit and K.M. Joseph passed the order after perusing the note.
- The Bench said any information considered at this stage to be strategic or confidential might be placed before the court but not be made available to the petitioners or their lawyers.
- When the government objected to sharing details of the pricing/cost of the jets, Chief Justice Gogoi asked Attorney General K.K. Venugopal to file a written affidavit. The Bench also asked the government todisclose information which can be “legitimately placed in the public domain” about the induction of an Indian off-set partner, if any, in the Rafale agreement with French company, Dassault.
- The joint petition filed by Mr. Sinha, Mr. Shourie and advocate Prashant Bhushan has sought a CBI probe.
- Other petitioners like advocates M.L. Sharma and Vineet Dhanda have urged for a court-monitored SIT investigation.
- The petitions allege that an earlier deal with Dassault involved the purchase of 126 aircraft, of which 108 were to be made by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited.
GS II: SOCIAL – UNREST
16 ex-PAC jawans held guilty for Hashimpura massacre
- More than 31 years after 38 Muslims from Hashimpura were rounded up and shot dead by the Uttar Pradesh Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC), the Delhi High Court sent 16 former jawans to life imprisonment, holding them guilty of murder.
- They have all retired from service.
- A Bench of Justices S. Muralidhar and Vinod Goel said a “disturbing aspect of the present case is the targeted killings of persons belonging to one minority community.”
- The incident took place in the evening hours of May 22, 1987, when 42 to 45 elderly men and boys belonging to the Muslim community were rounded up by the PAC personnel, packed into a truck and taken away; 38 of them were later shot with .303 rifles in cold blood and the bodies were thrown into the Gang nahar (canal) and Hindon river.
- Five of them survived to recount the horror.
- Just 11 of the 38 killed were able to be identified later by their relatives. The remaining bodies were not recovered.
- The High Court directed all the convicts to surrender on or before November 22 failing which the Station House Officer concerned will immediately take them into custody for serving out the sentences awarded to each of them.
- The court also imposed a fine of Rs. 30,000 each on the 16 convicts.
- The Bench rued that the case was yet another instance of “custodial killing where the legal system has been unable to effectively prosecute the perpetrators of gross human rights abuses.”
- In March 2015 the trial court exonerated the 16 accused PAC personnel of the crime.
- Aggrieved by the acquittal, three appeals were filed before the High Court — two by the victims and their families and one by the Uttar Pradesh government.
GS III: ENVIRONMENT – POLLUTION
Only ‘green’ crackers can be sold in Delhi, says SC
- The Supreme Court allowed States other than Delhi to use their existing stocks of crackers for Diwali.
- However, the Bench of Justices A.K. Sikri and Ashok Bhushan directed that only green crackers can be manufactured henceforth across the country.
- That means once the existing stocks are used up, no new polluting crackers can be made.
- The court has allowed Tamil Nadu, Puducherry and the adjoining southern States, which celebrate Diwali in the morning, to burst crackers for two hours.
- The decision to finalise the time slots has been left to the State authorities.
- The Supreme Court, in its order on October 23, had fixed 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. as the time-slot for bursting crackers on religious festival days like Diwali uniformly across the country.
- As far as Delhi-NCR is concerned, the court did not relax its rigour both in terms of the time-slot for bursting crackers and the mandatory manufacture and sale of green crackers.
- The court refused to lift the pan-India ban on sale of crackers online through e-commerce websites. Any violation of this direction would lead to contempt of court, it said.
- The sale of green and improved crackers would be only through licensed traders, it said.
- While the court made community bursting of crackers in pre-designated areas compulsory for Delhi-NCR, it urged other States to endeavour to attempt the welfare measure.
- The court said the October 23 order was only a preliminary step and it would not shy away from imposing more stringent measures in the future “if the situation so warrants”.
- The October 23 order was based on petitions filed by a six-month-old and a 14-month-old, through their fathers in 2015. They had said the air pollution caused by various factors, especially firecrackers, has made Delhi a gas chamber. They pleaded for their right to life.
GS II: SOCIAL – HEALTH
Madras HC bans online sale of drugs
- The Madras High Court banned online sale of medicines that could be sold only in pharmacies on the prescription of a registered medical practitioner.
- Justice R. Mahadevan, in an interim order, directed the Union Ministry of Health and the competent authorities under the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940, to take immediate action.
- A writ petition filed by the Tamil Nadu Chemists and Druggists Association had sought a ban on websites that facilitate online sale of drugs.
- Senior counsel AR.L. Sundaresan said it was a matter of serious concern that online sale of drugs listed in Schedule H, H1 and X of the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940 was rampant in the country though there was a specific legal bar on selling such medicines without the prescription of medical practitioners.
- “As per the Drugs and Cosmetics Rules of 1945, it is not permitted to ship, mail or provide door delivery of the prescribed medicines… Yet, drugs of scheduled and non scheduled category are available online and distributed across the country,” the petition claimed.
GS III: ECONOMY – INDICATORS
India jumps to 77th rank in the Ease of Doing Business Index
- India jumped 23 ranks in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Index 2018 to 77.
- In the 2017 report, the country was ranked 100.
- The Index ranks 190 countries based on 10 indicators across the life-cycle of a business, from “starting a business” to “resolving insolvency.”
- Finance Minister Arun Jaitley pointed out that since the World Bank sets May 1 as the deadline for measurement, there are several initiatives taken by the government that will only reflect in next year’s rankings including the effects of the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code and the full effect of the Goods and Services Tax.
- He said that despite the sharp improvement India has made in several categories in the Index, there were others such as registering a property, starting a business, taxation, insolvency, and enforcing a contract where a lot of work still needs to be done.
- “During the past year, India made Starting a Business easier by fully integrating multiple application forms into a general incorporation form,” the World Bank said in a release.
- “India also replaced the value added tax with the Goods and Services Tax (GST) for which the registration process is faster in both Delhi and Mumbai, the two cities measured by the Doing Business report.
- In addition, Mumbai abolished the practice of site inspections for registering companies under the Shops and Establishments Act. As a result, the time to start a business has been halved to 16 days, from 30 days.”
- This year, two South Asian economies, India and Afghanistan, made it into the top 10 global improvers list.
- India, with a score of 67.23 (a gain of 6.63 from last year), did best on ‘dealing with construction permits’ and ‘trading across borders’ over a period of one year.
GS III: DISASTER MANAGEMENT
Arunachal safe as China river barrier breaches again
- The Disaster Management Department in Arunachal Pradesh marked the central part of the State safe after water from Tibet’s Yarlung Tsangpo river over-topped a landslide-induced barrier and started flowing downstream.
- A landslide in the Milin section of the river had created a 1.7 km barrier at 11 a.m. on October 29, temporarily blocking the flow of water towards Arunachal Pradesh. A landslide of bigger intensity in the same section on October 17 had created a 3.5 km barrier.
- The Yarlung Tsangpo becomes the Siang after entering India and flows through three districts of Arunachal Pradesh — Upper Siang, Siang and East Siang — before meeting two other rivers to form the Brahmaputra in Assam downstream.
- “We received information from China via the Central Water Commission that the accumulated water began over-topping the Milin section barrier at 9.30 a.m.” said Bidol Tayeng, Arunachal Pradesh Disaster Management Department secretary.
- Mr. Tayeng said that the force and volume of the water were less than that on October 19 when the barrier formed on Yarlung Tsangpo 13 days ago had breached.
- However, the heads of the districts through which the Siang river meanders have been asked to ensure people do not venture out to the river for any purpose until the flow of water becomes normal.
GS II: GOVERNANCE – POLICY
Towering statue of Patel dedicated to the nation
- Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated a 182-metre statue of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel overlooking the Narmada river in Gujarat as a tribute to the country’s ‘Iron Man’.
- He dedicated the ‘Statue of Unity’ to the nation on Sardar Patel’s birth anniversary, on 31 October.
- Built at a cost of Rs. 2,989 crore, the ‘Statue of Unity’ depicts Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, wearing a dhoti and a shawl, towering over the Narmada river and overlooking the Sardar Sarovar dam.
- The statue, described as the world’s tallest given that it exceeds the height of China’s Spring Temple Buddha by 29 metres, was built by Indian construction major Larsen & Toubro (L&T) in 33 months.
- The statue was designed by Padma Bhushan-winning sculptor Ram V. Sutar.
- The Prime Minister recalled the Congress leader’s contribution in unifying the country after independence as he brought more than 500 princely states on a common platform to join the Union of India.
- Mr. Modi said, recalling the strategic efforts made by the first Home Minister of India in bringing Junagadh in Gujarat and Hyderabad in south India — both of which were then controlled by Muslim rulers — into the Union of India.
- Mr. Modi also lashed out at those who had questioned the government for spending almost Rs. 3,000 crore to build the world’s tallest statue. “I find it amusing when some people of our own country dare to see this initiative from a political view and criticise us as if we have committed a huge crime,” he said, rhetorically asking: “Is remembering the country’s great personalities a crime?”
- Among those critical of the project and its cost were local tribals, whose attempts to hold a protest were foiled by the heavy deployment of police along the route to the statue.
- The local police even detained more than 50 activists and tribal leaders, fearing protests by them.
- “Instead of spending Rs. 3,000 crore on building a statue, the government should have started some new scheme for tribals,” an activist said.
- Environmental activist Rohit Prajapati, who was also detained ahead of the inaugural event, said that the statue — built on a small island in the river — would cause damage to the Narmada’s ecology.
GS II: SOCIAL – UNREST
RSS demands law to construct Ram temple
- The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) said that the Central government should now acquire the site in Ayodhya and start building the Ram temple to “restore the nation’s pride.”
- “The government should enact a law for the purpose,” said RSS joint general secretary Manmohan Vaidya.
- “When Babar conquered Ayodhya, he had plenty of land and could have built a masjid anywhere. But he demolished the temple. Courts too have said a mosque is not important for Muslim prayers. Islamic scholars have said that prayers in a mosque, which has been conquered, is of no use,” said Mr. Vaidya.
GS II: INTERNATIONAL – ASIA
Pak. acquits Asia Bibi of blasphemy
- The Supreme Court of Pakistan acquitted Asia Bibi, a Christian woman on death row for blasphemy.
- This was her final legal appeal before execution.
- Ms. Bibi was accused of committing blasphemy in 2009.
- In 2010, a trial court sentenced her to death.
- In 2014, the Lahore High Court upheld the trial court’s verdict.
- A three-member bench headed by Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar finally overturned the conviction.
- “Keeping in mind the evidence produced by the prosecution against the alleged blasphemy committed by the appellant, theprosecution has categorically failed to prove its case beyond reasonable doubt.”
- Prime Minister Imran Khan warned those trying to create mischief and inciting violence against the judges, the Army chief and the government that the state knows how to deal with such troublemakers.
- Pakistan’s blasphemy law prescribes the death sentence for anyone convicted of insulting Islam and the Prophet Muhammed.
- Ms. Bibi was accused of using vile words on Islam and the Prophet in an argument with her co-workers in 2009.
GS III: ECONOMY – BANKING
RBI firm despite govt. seeking consultation under Section 7
- The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has refused to provide any leeway to stressed borrowers or give in to the demand of higher dividend by the government, which issued three letters to the central bank in the last one month for consultation under Section 7 of the RBI Act.
- Section 7 of the RBI Act empowers the central government to issue directions to the RBI in public interest.
- Section 7 of the RBI Act reads. “Subject to any such directions, the general superintendence and direction of the affairs and business of the Bank shall be entrusted to a Central Board of Directors which may exercise all powers and do all acts and things which may be exercised or done by the Bank.”
- This Central Board of Directors, as per the Act, comprises a Governor and [not more than four] Deputy Governors to be appointed by the Centre, four Directors to be nominated by the Centre and one government official nominated by the Centre.
- Giving control of the RBI to its Board of Directors effectively gives control to the Central Government.
- This section has, however, never been invoked by the government so far.
- Section 7 has two parts — consultation and then issuing a direction to the RBI for taking some action in public interest.
- According to central banking sources, one letter pertained to exemption for power companies from new stressed asset norms, while another one was to dilute capital threshold norms of the prompt corrective action framework. Yet another one communication was pertaining to more capital to the government from the reserves of the central bank.
- Sources said while the communication from the government was for consultation under Section 7, no directions were issued.
- It was speculated that if the government issued directions under this Section, RBI Governor Urjit Patel would quit.
- “RBI has responded to all the communications that were sent by the government. RBI has decided to maintain its stance,” said a central banking source close to the development.
- Amid all these, the board meeting of the RBI on October 23 turned out to be a stormy one, going on for eight hours without arriving at any conclusion on the three contentious issues of regulatory forbearance, PCA and higher capital.
- All eyes are now on the next board meeting scheduled on November 19, in which the unresolved issues could be discussed.
- Within a few days of the board meeting, RBI deputy governor Viral Acharya, in a speech, highlighted differences between the RBI and the government and claimed that the latter was impinging on RBI’s autonomy, which would have unsavoury consequences on the economy.
- As the spat between the central bank and the government came out in public, the finance ministry issued a statementemphasising on RBI’s autonomy, but added that it would continue consultations. “The autonomy for the central bank, within the framework of the RBI Act, is an essential and accepted governance requirement. Government of India has nurtured and respected this,” the finance ministry said in a statement.
GS III: ECONOMY – STOCKS
FPIs go on a selling spree in October
- October has turned out to be the worst-ever month for Indian equities in terms of outflows from foreign portfolio investors (FPIs) that are often looked upon as the prime drivers of any bull run.
- Data shows that FPIs have been net sellers at nearly $4 billion or Rs. 28,921 crore in October 2018, which is significantly higher than any single month net sales registered in the last 16 years since data is available.
- Incidentally, the previous high was seen in November 2016, when FPIs sold Indian shares worth Rs. 18,244 crore.
- While market participants attribute the FPI selling to the overall aversion towards emerging markets coupled with factors such as the record fall in the rupee against the dollar and the surge in global oil prices that adversely impacts India’s current account deficit, they believe that the worst is over and flows should stabilise in the near-term.
GS II: SOCIAL – MEDIA
Be ready to trace the origin of messages, WhatsApp told
- The government said it does not want WhatsApp to “decrypt and read” messages sent on its platform but “insists” that the Facebook-owned firm be able to trace the origin of messages that lead to serious crimes.
- This was conveyed to WhatsApp vice president Chris Daniels at a meeting with Electronics and IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad.
- The government and WhatsApp firm have been at loggerheads over the issue of tracing the origin of fake messages.
- “Building traceability would undermine end-to-end encryption and the private nature of WhatsApp, creating potential for serious misuse,” the U.S.-headquartered firm had said in August 2018.
GS III: S&T – SPACE
NASA’s Kepler space telescope to retire
- The Kepler space telescope has run out of fuel and will be retired after a nine-and-a-half year mission, in which it detected thousands of planets beyond our solar system and boosted the search for worlds that might harbour alien life, NASA said.
- Currently orbiting the sun 156 million km from the earth, the spacecraft will drift further from our planet when mission engineers turn off its radio transmitters, the U.S. space agency said.
- The telescope laid bare the diversity of planets that reside in our Milky Way galaxy, with findings indicating that distant star systems are populated with billions of planets, and even helped pinpoint the first moon known outside our solar system.
- The Kepler telescope discovered more than 2,600 of the roughly 3,800 exoplanets — the term for planets outside our solar system — that have been documented in the past two decades.
- The telescope has now run out of the fuel needed for further operations.