Weekly Current Affairs Update for IAS Exam VOL - 39 (25th August 2014 TO 31st August 2014)

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Weekly Current Affairs Update for IAS Exam

VOL - 39 (25th August 2014 TO 31st August 2014)


Issue : VOL - 39 (25th August 2014 TO 31st August 2014)

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NATIONAL PORTAL OF INDIA

Centre to write to states to expedite cases against lawmakers

Centre will soon write to state governments to speed up cases against MPs and MLAs facing charges which attract disqualification.

"It is a priority commitment of the Narendra Modi government that polity needs to be cleansed. Those against whom criminal cases are pending, that trial needs to be expedited. If they are clean, they will be acquitted. If they are not, law will take its own course," Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad told reporters in New Delhi.

The decision was taken at a high-level meeting chaired by Home Minister Rajnath Singh and attended by Prasad and top Home and Law Ministry officials besides Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi.

Prasad said cases against MPs and MLAs which attract disqualification under Section 8(1), 8(2) and 8(3) of the Representation of the People Act needed to be completed within one year of framing charges according to a March 10 direction of the Supreme Court.

Any sentence which attracts punishment of two years and above can lead to disqualification from Parliament or state legislature.

"The government is going to follow up the direction of the Supreme Court in a substantial way whereby the Home Minister shall be writing to all chief ministers of the states and I will be writing to all law ministers of the states to ensure mandatory compliance of this provision," Prasad said.

He said this will be a big step in cleansing the politics of the country.

Highly-placed sources said the Attorney General is likely to inform the apex court about the government decision to write to the states to expedite the cases involving law makers.

In its March 10 directive, the Supreme Court had set a deadline for lower courts to complete trial in cases involving lawmakers within a year of framing of charges.

The apex court had also said that trial courts will have to give explanation to the chief justice of the respective high court if the trial is not completed within a year.

It said all such proceedings involving lawmakers must be conducted on a day-to-day basis in order to expedite the trial.

As the trial is kept pending for years, lawmakers continue to enjoy membership of the legislative body despite being charged in a heinous offence, the court noted. The court passed the order on a PIL filed by NGO Public Interest Foundation seeking its direction for expeditious trial in cases involving lawmakers.

The NGO contended that MPs and MLAs continue to be members of Parliament and assemblies for a long time due to delay in proceedings.

Prime Minister Modi had on July 24 asked the Home Minister and Law Minister to work out a mechanism to settle criminal and other court cases against politicians within a year.

The directive is in line with Modi's commitment during his election campaign that he will endeavour to see that court cases against politicians are decided within one year.

If they are guilty, they should be punished, if not they should be discharged, he had said.

During the poll campaign, he had vowed to pursue a zero-tolerance policy on graft if he came to power.

(Courtesy: http://india.gov.in)

:: Ministry of External affairs ::

Factsheet: India and Japan - Partners for Common Development

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is on an official visit to Japan from 30 August - 3 September 2014. He held the Annual Summit meeting with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. The two Prime Ministers issued a Joint Statement thereafter. They instructed respective relevant authorities to further enhance cooperation in the following cooperation programmes and projects.

Infrastructure

  1. The Japanese side announced the launch of a feasibility study by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) of a project for setting up of a 10 MW canal-top grid connected solar photovoltaic (PV) power plant in Gujarat as a model for next generation infrastructure.

  2. The Indian side appreciated Japanese yen loan pledges of 50 billion yen (approximately 500 million US dollars) for the Public-Private Partnership Infrastructure Financing Project to the India Infrastructure Finance Company Limited (IIFCL), and of around 15.6 billion yen (approximately 156 million US dollars) for the Guwahati Sewerage Project in Assam.

  3. Both sides emphasized that the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor (DMIC) Project should result in a new era of industrial infrastructure development with the creation of new generation Smart Community projects across six states in India.

  4. Both sides acknowledged that in addition to new manufacturing hubs, the DMIC Project will envisage the development of infrastructure linkages like power plants, assured water supply, high capacity urban transportation and logistics facilities as well as important interventions like skill development programme for providing employment opportunities to youth.

  5. Both sides welcomed the progress made in the development of industrial cities at Dholera in Gujarat and Shendra-Bidkin in Maharashtra, and integrated industrial townships at Greater Noida in Uttar Pradesh and Vikram Udyogpuri near Ujjain in Madhya Pradesh.

  6. Both sides expressed their expectation for introducing Japanese technologies and expanding Japanese investment in Mass Rapid Transit Systems (MRTS) with the possibility of adopting the most suitable financing scheme. Both sides directed the respective relevant authorities to start a feasibility study by JICA on a potential yen loan project for the MRTS between Gurgaon and Bawal in Haryana.

  7. Welcoming the progress achieved in the Smart Community projects, viz. the Logistics Data Bank project, the Mega Solar Power project at Neemrana and the Seawater Desalination project at Dahej, both sides instructed their officials to accelerate the implementation of these Smart Community projects. The Indian side assured to resolve the outstanding issues regarding the Seawater Desalination project at Dahej, including tariff, water quality parameters, water sales, etc. Both sides hoped that these projects will demonstrate the uniqueness of cutting-edge Japanese technology in India.

  8. Welcoming the rapid progress made in the Chennai-Bengaluru Industrial Corridor (CBIC), including the finalisation of the perspective plan and the designation of three cities, viz. Ponneri in Tamil Nadu, Krishnapatnam in Andhra Pradesh and Tumkur in Karnataka, as potential industrial nodes, both sides instructed their officials to expeditiously finalise the Master Plan and the Development Plan of the three cities by the end of March 2015. Prime Minister Modi directed relevant authorities to ensure the timely development of the infrastructure stipulated in Tamil Nadu Investment Promotion Programme (TNIPP), such as road development and, power and water supply. The Japanese side welcomed it.

  9. Taking into account the positive effects of the TNIPP on India’s business environment improvement and infrastructure development, both sides shared the view that a similar programme may be extended to the state of Karnataka.

  10. Both sides welcomed the signing of a Framework of Cooperation between the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways, Government of India, and the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism of Japan in the Roads and Road Transportation Sector.

  11. The Indian side sought Japanese support in upgrading the ship-breaking yard at Alang Sosiya in Gujarat.

  12. The Japanese side underlined Japan’s policy to promote people-centered investment with an emphasis on inclusiveness to have as many people as possible enjoy economic benefits of investment, enhanced social resilience to climate change, natural disasters, and capacity building. The Japanese side emphasized that promotion of such investment will lead to sustainable development. The Indian side welcomed this policy.

  13. Both sides urged and supported the Asian Development Bank to enhance its capacity to address the region’s infrastructure and connectivity needs.

(Courtesy: http://www.mea.gov.in)

:: Planning Commission of India ::

Move to scrap Planning Commission raises Constitutional questions

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s decision to scrap the Planning Commission has raised administrative and Constitutional questions that the Centre will have to address in the coming days.

The first of these is what happens to the ongoing 12th Five Year Plan? Will this Plan, which was adopted by the National Development Council (NDC) that comprises not only the Centre but also States, including Gujarat, be junked or be allowed to run its course till 2017?

“The 12th Plan is an ideologically-neutral, NDC-approved, growth policy document with inclusion and sustainability as its pillars and technically the Centre cannot on its own decide to junk it,” a high-level source said. Second, since indications are that the role of making plan allocations to States for development spending will be transferred to the Finance Ministry, there are likely to be implications of this for India’s federal system. Will the States, especially those governed by the Opposition parties, readily accept allocations from the Union Finance Ministry is the question, says Y.K. Alagh, who was Planning Minister in the Deve Gowda government. The Commission made these annual allocations to them under Article 282 of the Constitution following discussions with each of the States at its Yojana Bhawan office in Delhi every year. “At present, the Finance Ministry does not have the expertise or capacity to decide fresh allocations for States and Ministries at the Centre and more importantly over time it could gain too much power with such a role,” said Abjijit Sen, a member of the last Planning Commission.

Though differences between it and the State governments cropped up often at these discussions, there is not a single case of a dispute remaining unresolved. “Despite the differences, there is not a single case of a State government in over 60 years ever having rejected an annual plan approved for it by the Commission,” Mr. Alagh said. “That’s because the Commission wasn’t just of the government of India but of both States and the Centre.”

In his Independence Day speech, Mr. Modi announced plans to replace the Planning Commission with a new institution that will have “a new body, soul, thinking, direction and faith” , bringing the curtains down on the 64-year old institution founded on the former Soviet Union's command-style development model. This new institution would be powered by creative thinking, public-private partnership, optimum utilisation of resources, and the utilisation of youth power, Mr. Modi said, adding that it would empower the federal structure of India.

The announcement, which came during Modi’s Independence Day address, ends weeks of speculation over the future of what was once India’s premier policy making body but has increasingly weakened since India switched from a socialist-style economy to embrace market-opening polices in the early 1990s.

(Courtesy: http://planningcommission.nic.in)

:: NATIONAL EVENTS ::

PM Modi's Digital India project: Government to ensure that every Indian has smartphone by 2019

  • The Digital India project that aims to offer a one-stop shop for government services would use the mobile phone as the backbone of its delivery mechanism.
  • The government hopes the Rs 1.13-lakh crore initiative that seeks to transform India into a connected economy to also attract investment in electronics manufacturing, create millions of jobs and support trade.

PMO now a strategic HR manager, to analyse officials’ skills to fill up top vacancies

  • Over the past fortnight, two senior bureaucrats, recently empanelled as secretaries to the government of India, were surprised when they got a call from the Prime Minister's Office (PMO).
  • They were asked about their areas of interest and the departments they might be interested in handling as and when an opening comes up.

BJP leads in 6, RJD-JD(U)-Congress alliance ahead in 4 seats in Bihar

  • BJP is leading in six seats while secular alliance comprising RJD, JD(U) and Congress is ahead in 4 seats of the total 10 Assembly seats where bypoll was held on August 21.

Coal block allocations since 1993 illegal: SC

  • The Supreme Court pulled up the Centre on coal block allocations and declared all 218 allocations made from 1993 to 2011 illegal and arbitrary.
  • A Bench of Chief Justice R.M. Lodha and Justices Madan B. Lokur and Kurian Joseph said the entire allocation of coal blocks as recommended by the Screening Committee from July 14, 1993, in 36 meetings and the allocation made through the government dispensation route suffered from the vice of arbitrariness and legal flaws.
  • In February 2012, the court ordered the cancellation of spectrum allocations and directed fresh auction.
  • The Bench said the consequences of declaring the allocations illegal would be considered on September 1 taking into account the investments made by companies for various projects and the procedure to be adopted for cancellation.

:: INTERNATIONAL ::

Britain offers help to usher in ‘good times’

  • British Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said that his country was “ready and able” to help India achieve its ambitious growth plans.
  • Mr. Clegg held talks with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and also met Finance Minister Arun Jaitley. The discussions included retrospective tax amendments concerning Vodafone and Cairn Energy.

:: INDIA AND THE WORLD ::

Great expectations from Modi’s Japan trip

  • India has “great expectations” from Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s five-day visit to Japa, his first bilateral trip outside the subcontinent.
  • Underlining the importance of the East Asian region, Mr. Modi’s visit to Japan will be followed by a Vietnam trip by President Pranab Mukherjee in September.
  • External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj just concluded a visit to Vietnam.
  • Top business leaders, including Mukesh Ambani, Gautam Adani and Kumar Mangalam Birla, will travel separately to Japan in visits timed to coincide with high-level business interactions Mr. Modi will initiate with his Japanese counterpart, Shinzo Abe.

:: ECONOMY ::

Tata Value ties up with Snapdeal

  • Online marketplace Snapdeal and Tata Value Homes, a subsidiary of Tata Housing with focus on affordable housing , announced partnership to enable users to buy houses online.

  • As part of the partnership, about 1,000 homes across projects in cities such as Mumbai, Pune, Ahmedabad, Bangalore and Chennai will be put up for sale on Snapdeal. These houses are priced between Rs.18 lakh and Rs.70 lakh and range from 1 BHK to 3 BHK.

  • Tata Value Homes will continue to sell through its own portal as well.

  • Upon possession of the house, customers buying the house through Snapdeal will get Rs.10,000 a month for a year as an assured rent (whether they stay on premise or lease it out) as part of the deal.

Centre to unveil home loan scheme for transgenders

  • The Union Ministry of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation (HUPA) has proposed rolling out a loan assistance scheme that will for the first time help transgenders and economically weaker sections to secure home loans in urban areas.

  • The Ministry has tweaked the existing Rajiv Rinn Yojna (RRY), which was launched as an instrument to aid the EWS (economically weaker sections) and LIG (lower income group) segments in urban areas, through enhanced credit flow and replaced it with a new scheme that will make it easier for the economically weaker sections and minority groups to own homes.

  • The RRY launched by the UPA government with much fanfare failed to take off and funds earmarked for it lapsed.

  • The Ministry has now not only given it a new name — HOMES (Home Owners Mortgage Equity Subvention Scheme) but has also made it more attractive by enhancing the loan amount and increasing the interest subsidy from 5 per cent to 5.5 per cent on loans granted to construct houses or extend the existing ones.

Insurance Bill may be cleared by year-end

  • Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has expressed hope that Parliament will pass the Insurance Bill for raising the foreign direct investment (FDI) limit to 49 per cent by the end of this year, the first major economic reform proposed by the Narendra Modi Government.

  • The UPA Government had originally proposed raising the FDI cap back in 2008 when it introduced the Insurance Laws (Amendment) Bill. However, opposition from political parties, including the BJP, did not allow the Bill to be taken up in the Rajya Sabha.

  • The Modi Government introduced a fresh Insurance Laws (Amendment) Bill in Parliament earlier this month. It proposes a rider that management control rests in the hands of an Indian promoter alongside the eased FDI cap.

  • After the introduction of the Bill, the government moved 97 amendments because of which it could not be passed.

:: SCIENCE AND TECH ::

DGCA surprise checks reveal leading airlines violating safety procedures

  • The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) put up a presentation on safety standards for airline representatives that revealed some glaring lack of safety procedures by leading carriers.

BMW launches updated version of X3

  • German luxury carmaker BMW, launched the updated version of its sports utility vehicle X3.
  • The new X3 is available only in diesel option, and is being locally produced at the company’s Chennai plant.

:: SPORTS ::

Sait Nagjee Trophy to be revived

  • The Sait Nagjee Trophy all-India football tournament, once one of the most important events in India’s football calendar and a huge hit in this football-crazy city, is being revived after a gap of 20 years.

World varsity meet from Sept. 1

  • The eighth edition of the World University squash championship will be hosted by Squash Rackets Federation of India at the ISA courts, Chennai from September 1 to 7, in association with the Association of Indian Universities.

:: IN THE NEWS (PERSONS) ::

R.N. Ravi

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led Appointments Committee of the Cabinet (ACC) has approved the appointment of former Intelligence Bureau Special Director R.N. Ravi as chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee for a period of three years.
  • The Joint Intelligence Committee functions under the National Security Council Secretariat.
  • Mr. Ravi, a 1976-batch Indian Police Service officer from Kerala, has been appointed in the pay and rank of Secretary to the Government of India. He retired as IB Special Director in 2012.

Ramesh Chand Tayal

  • The ACC has also cleared the proposal for appointment of senior IPS officer Ramesh Chand Tayal as Central Reserve Police Force Special Director-General.
  • The 1980-batch Assam-Meghalaya cadre officer is presently posted as Additional Director-General of the Sashatra Seema Bal.

New Governors for 4 States

  • President Pranab Mukherjee appointed Kalyan Singh, Vajubhai Rudabhai Vala, Ch. Vidyasagar Rao and Mridula Sinha Governors of Rajasthan, Karnataka, Maharashtra and Goa, respectively.
  • Manipur Governor Vinod Kumar Duggal will continue to hold charge of Mizoram.

:: Selected Editorials of Importance ::

Constitutional duty underlined

The Supreme Court of India has a reputation for activism and has sometimes even been accused of judicial overreach. However, it needs to be said in defence of the Court that as a repository of public trust it has been wont to step in only in conditions of administrative apathy and legislative stasis to protect basic rights and constitutional values. It has in recent times delivered some significant verdicts to save the purity of the election process. It directed that the ‘none-of-the-above’ option be incorporated in the voting machine, and struck down a clause that saved sitting legislators from immediate disqualification upon conviction. When the question whether a person with a criminal background can be allowed to become a Minister was referred to a Constitution Bench, there could have been the expectation that the Court would expand the existing law to bar the appointment of those against whom serious charges have been framed. However, showing wise restraint, the Constitution Bench has declined to prescribe any fresh ground for disqualification for the appointment of Ministers. Instead, it has advised the Prime Minister, as well as the Chief Ministers, to live up to the trust that the Constitution reposes in them by refraining from advising the President, or the Governors, when it comes to appointing as Ministers those with the taint of criminality.

Even though doctrines such as implied prohibition and constitutional silence were put forward in support of a radical finding that the Prime Minister was impliedly barred from including in the Council of Ministers a person with a criminal record, the Court stopped short of doing so, correctly. Rather, it chose to invoke the principle of constitutional trust, constitutional expectation and the sanctity of the oath taken by the Prime Minister (or Chief Ministers), to counsel them against “choosing a person with criminal antecedents against whom charges have been framed for heinous or serious criminal offences or charges of corruption” as a Minister. In the ultimate analysis, the judgment may be no more than a learned dissertation on the subject. However, at a time when statistics of pending cases and charges against legislators are cited to assess the extent of criminality in politics, it is a timely reminder to the Prime Minister and Chief Ministers of their constitutional responsibility to preserve purity in public life. The Election Commission has already mooted some reforms to curb the criminalisation of politics, notably an amendment to make framing of charges in serious cases the basis for disqualification, instead of conviction, as it stands now. The message from the latest verdict is that these issues ought to be addressed through legislation rather than the judicial process.

(Courtesy: The Hindu)

:: MCQs ::

1Q.

(i) The Government is likely to approve a hike in dearness allowance (DA) to 107 per cent from the existing 100 per cent, benefiting around 30 lakh Centre’s employees and its 50 lakh pensioners including dependents.
(ii) The previous UPA government had increased DA to 100 per cent from 80 per cent with effect from January 1, 2014, on February 28 on the basis of agreed formula for revision of the allowance.

Which of the above statement/statements is/are true ?

(a) Only i
(b) Only ii
(c) Neither i nor ii
(d) Both i and ii

2Q.

(i) India will not review its nuclear doctrine adopted during the first National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said
(ii) The Prime Minister said Delhi would continue to work for the strengthening of non-proliferation efforts.

Which of the above statement/statements is/are true ?

(a) Only i
(b) Only ii
(c) Neither i nor ii
(d) Both i and ii

3Q.

(i) Even as lakhs of people who lost their life’s savings in the Saradha scam await the outcome of the ongoing probe, the fraud cast its shadow on the Prime Minister’s Jan Dhan Yojana (PMGDY) .
(ii) The ambitious programme of taking banking services to every household in the country was kicked off simultaneously in New Delhi by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and also in the various regions through the State Level Bankers Committees .

Which of the above statement/statements is/are true ?

(a) Only i
(b) Only ii
(c) Neither i nor ii
(d) Both i and ii

4Q.

(i) The Supreme Court added a new qualification in the Constitution for appointment as Ministers, saying it was not prerogative of the Prime Minister or the Chief Minister of a State to appoint Ministers of his/her choice.
(ii) Systemic corruption and sponsored criminalisation can corrode the fundamental core of elective democracy and, consequently, the constitutional governance.

Which of the above statement/statements is/are true ?

(a) Only i
(b) Only ii
(c) Neither i nor ii
(d) Both i and ii

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