Current Affairs for IAS Exams - 12 March 2018

Current Affairs for IAS Exams - 12 March 2018


India’s commitments at ISA Founding Conference at New Delhi

  • India announced one of the world’s largest investment plans in solar energy at the Founding Conference of the International Solar Alliance (ISA).
  • The $1.4 billion line of credit will cover 27 projects in 15 countries and boost the much-required financial power to the solar sector.
  • “India will provide assistance to 15 countries for $1.4 billion. I am happy to announce that to fill the gap of solar technology, India will start a solar technology mission with international focus, which will cover all government technical and educational institutions,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi said, announcing the unprecedented investment.
  • The Founding Conference was co-chaired by Mr. Modi and French President Emmanuel Macron.
  • Mr. Modi presented a 10-point action plan aimed at making solar power more affordable while raising the share of power generated.
  • “We have to increase the share of solar in the energy mix,” Mr. Modi said.
  • The solar energy sector, facing a challenge of funding, received considerable support at the conference.
  • Mr. Macron, while pointing to the withdrawal of the U.S. from the Paris Agreement on climate change, praised those who stayed the course to support the solar power on a global scale.
  • France was committed to providing an additional €700 million in loans and support by 2022 to emerging economies for solar energy projects, he said.
  • Mr Macron is heading to Mirzapur where he will inaugurate a 100 MW solar power project.
  • Mr. Macron identified three issues to be addressed — the solar energy potential in each country should be be identified; mobilisation of finance; and the provision of a favourable framework.
  • He said the member countries of the ISA would ensure distribution of finance and expertise.
  • The conference was attended by 23 heads of states and governments from all over the world, including Mr. Modi and Mr. Macron.

Vice President advices MPs to be responsible

  • Referring to the Parliament proceedings last week which were washed out by protests, Vice-President M. Venkaiah Naidu, who is the Rajya Sabha Chairman, said that more than the government and the Opposition, it was the people of the country who lost out in such a situation.
  • Addressing the valedictory session of the National Legislators’ Conference here, Mr. Naidu said there was no place for banners, placards or shouting in the House.
  • He said the inviolability of the question hour should be maintained. Mr. Naidu stressed that public representatives must introspect on their conduct.
  • Mr. Naidu said the disruptions in Parliament had left him disturbed and disillusioned.
  • He asked both the Union and the State governments to increase the number of sittings of Parliament and Assembly.

Protesting farmers and tribals enter Mumbai city

  • The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was the main target, as Opposition parties and BJP allies extended support to thousands of protesting farmers and tribals, who entered the city via Mulund.
  • The farmers plan to march to the State Legislature complex. They, however, remained undecided on entering south Mumbai.
  • The Kisan Morcha, organised by the All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS), received support from the ruling coalition partner Shiv Sena, the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS), the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), the Congress and the Aam Adami Party (AAP), who have come together to extend support to the Left-aligned AIKS.
  • Ashok Dhawale, national secretary, AIKS, said, “We are a mass organisation, not a political party. We wouldn’t mind any party supporting our demands. At the same time, this march has put farmers’ issues on the forefront, and every political party had to take a note of it.”
  • An AIKS spokesperson said the Kisan Morcha has forced the government to take cognisance of farmer issues.
  • Leader of Opposition in the Legislative Assembly Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil said his party stands firmly with the farmers.
  • “We’ll ensure that the government takes cognisance. Calling farmers for a meeting is an afterthought by this government.” He said all demands will be raised by the Congress in the Assembly.
  • As the farmers wound their way through the city, politicians from several parties joined them in support.
  • While PWD Minister Eknath Shinde of the Shiv Sena met farmers at Mulund, NCP MLA Jitendra Awhad met them at Bhandup.
  • The farmers received a warm welcome from people. Supporters of the Left-affiliated CITU Prakash Ambedkar’s BharipBahujanMahasangh welcomed the protesters and joined them.

Give details on claims to forest lands: SC

  • The Supreme Court has ordered State governments to provide details of the number of claims for the grant of land under the provisions of the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act of 2006.
  • A Bench of Justices Madan B. Lokur, Kurian Joseph and Deepak Gupta, on a batch of petitions including that of Wildlife First, said it wanted updated information on claims to forest lands, encroachments and evictions.
  • The court said the claims for grant of land should be those made by the Scheduled Tribes and separately by other traditional forest dwellers, along with the number of claims rejected by States in respect of each category.
  • It called for information on the extent of land over which such claims were made, number of rejections in respect of each of the two categories and the action taken against those claimants whose claims were rejected.
  • The court, in its March 7 order, asked for the status of eviction of those claimants whose claims were rejected and the total extent of area from which they were evicted.
  • The States have to provide the extent of the area in respect of which eviction has not yet taken place in respect of rejected claims.
  • The Bench said it wanted information to be provided in four weeks and listed the matter for hearing on April 18.
  • The court recorded that the petitioners had challenged the constitutional validity of the Act as well as legislative competence of Parliament to enact the statute.
  • Noting that the forests and wildlife are in a “critical state,” the petitioners have indicated that they would want a performance audit by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India or by any other appropriate authority.

Criminal charges on 1756 law makers

  • The Centre has informed the Supreme Court that 1,765 members of Parliament and the Assemblies have criminal cases against them.
  • Of a total 3,816 cases against them, 3,045 are still pending.
  • Uttar Pradesh tops the list with 248 legislators, Tamil Nadu comes second with 178 and then Bihar follows with 144.
  • The affidavit by the Centre is its first response after the Supreme Court Bench led by Justice Ranjan Gogoi, in November 2017, directed the setting up of special courts to try legislators exclusively within a year.
  • The Centre has undertaken to set up 12 such courts.
  • The affidavit said that of the Rs. 78 crore allocated for setting up the courts in 11 States, Rs. 65.04 lakh was released in 2017.
  • The balance will be released during 2018-19. Tamil Nadu has been allotted Rs. 65 lakh for a year.
  • Compiling information received mostly from the High Courts, the Centre said 125 cases were decided against lawmakers in one year.
  • The Supreme Court had on November 1 directed the Centre to place before it details of cases involving MPs and MLAs, as declared by the politicians at the time of filing their nominations during the 2014 general elections.
  • The apex court had directed the government to frame a central scheme for setting up special courts across the country to exclusively try criminal cases involving “political persons”.
  • The court is hearing a PIL plea filed by Supreme Court advocate Ashwini Upadhyay who has sought a lifetime ban on convicted politicians to cleanse politics of criminality and corruption.

Finalising on Cauvery scheme: Centre

  • Asked whether he had any model for the implementation mechanism, the Union Secretary said he did not.
  • However, he explained that there were two models — the Bhakra Beas Management Board (BBMB) and the Narmada Control Authority (NCA).
  • Under the BBMB, assets including dams were being operated and maintained by the Board. In the case of the NCA, operation and maintenance of the assets were with States concerned —Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat — and the Authority’s role was limited to regulatory work and control over the release of water so that “everybody gets his share of water.”
  • Mr. Singh added that there could be slight variations of these models. “We had discussed all possibilities [with regard to the Cauvery] and hopefully, we will come out with something which is beneficial to everybody,” he said.
  • On the absence of an implementation mechanism for the order of the Bachawat Tribunal, a senior official of the Tamil Nadu government pointed out that in 2010, when the Krishna Water Disputes Tribunal- II gave its order in December 2010, it had made an implementation machinery part of the order.
  • Besides, when the Bachawat Tribunal’s order was given in the 1970s, there was no provision in the Act for any machinery.
  • The Section 6A was inserted in August 1980 in the light of the Narmada Water Disputes Tribunal’s order in December 1979, the official added.

IAF and it shopping problems

  • Almost two decades after it began a search for a fighter aircraft, the Indian Air Force is back to square one.
  • The IAF will begin the search again to arrest its falling squadron strength, as the Union government had scrapped the medium multi-role combat aircraft (MMRCA) tender after ordering 36 Rafale fighters from France in flyaway condition.
  • Earlier, the IAF was looking for a single-engine jet to replace the MiG-21s and MiG-27s.
  • The new jets were to be manufactured in India by the private industry under the Strategic Partnership model. However, the contest is now being opened up.
    “The contest for single-engine jets has only two contenders and it would end up being a single-vendor situation on technical evaluation. So it has been decided to widen the contest to avoid issues later,” the official said.
  • While the Lockheed Martin F-16 and SAAB Gripen are single-engine fighters, the contest will be now open to Boeing F-18, Dassault Rafale, Eurofighter Typhoon and Russian MiG-35, all of which were part of the earlier MMRCA contest.
  • The open tender will essentially be MMRCA all over again.
  • In 2000, the government decided to procure 126 fighter jets, but it was only in 2007 that the RFI, the first step in the long procurement process, was issued for 126 aircraft under the MMRCA deal expected to cost around $12 billion.
  • However, with contract negotiations reaching a deadlock, in 2015, Prime Minister Narendra Modi scrapped the deal and announced an Inter-Governmental Agreement with France for 36 Rafales at a cost of €7.87 billion, including aircraft, spares, weapons and a maintenance and performance guarantee for five years.
  • Under the new deal, the IAF is looking for over 100 aircraft, and the official said that whether single- or twin-engine, the aircraft were equally competent and the final choice would depend on the extent of technology transfer and price.
  • Another reason for widening the tender is for the selection of a competent Indian partner. In anticipation of a single-engine tender, Lockheed and SAAB had tied up with prospective Indian partners.
  • “The Indian SP partner has to be selected by the government through a competitive evaluation. So it is good to have a wider pool of both OEMs [original equipment manufacturer] and Indian partners to choose from,” the official said.
  • One defence official observed that procuring at least two more squadrons of Rafale jets would make economic, operational and logistical sense as India is spending €2 billion on IAF-specific customisations and 36 is too small a number.
  • “It makes logical sense and would save us money as the additional aircraft would cost less. But in the current political climate, it is not possible,” he said.
  • The IAF has a sanctioned strength of 42 squadrons but is currently down to 31 squadrons and with the planned induction of 36 Rafales between 2019 and 2022, remaining Sukhoi-30MKI and some LCA Tejas, the strength will hover at 30 till 2027 and in the subsequent five-year term, will fall to 27.
  • If there are no newer inductions, it is expected to slide further to 19 squadrons by 2042.

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  • Resounding support for Constitutional Amendments in China

  • Chinese lawmakers resoundingly endorsed changes in the Constitution, which would empower President Xi Jinping to weather headwinds that challenge China’s new stage of transition.
  • Out of a total of 2,964 members of the National People’s Congress (NPC), who voted on constitutional amendments, only two opposed a proposal that removes the limit on the tenure of the President to two consecutive five-year terms.
  • There were three abstentions to the revision floated by the Communist Party of China (CPC).
  • With the changes in China’s basic law, Mr. Xi can now serve as President indefinitely. He already wields real power as the CPC’s General Secretary — a post that has no term limit.
  • Mr. Xi also heads the powerful Central Military Commission — the apex body that marshals the People’s Liberation Army (PLA).
  • Besides, lawmakers at the NPC, China’s parliament, also included Mr. Xi’s political doctrine — ‘Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era,’ as part of the amended Constitution.
  • Prior to Mr. Xi, only the founding father of the People’s Republic of China, Mao Zedong, and the late paramount leader Deng Xiaoping have their personal ideologies engraved in the Constitution.
  • The constitutional change that entrenches Mr. Xi’s power was a foregone conclusion.
  • But going far beyond the mandatory two-thirds majority requirement, the near-unanimous vote conveys the impression of deep consensus in the establishment for backing President Xi.
  • The 21 items in the Constitution that were revised include provisions for setting up a National Supervisory Commission — an anti-corruption super agency.
  • Analysts say voting marks a “new point of inflexion” in the four decades history of reforms pioneered by Deng.

Archarya Envoys in America

  • In a new initiative by the Narendra Modi government, a band of Indian officials posted to three missions in America now promote ‘Indian culture’ as part of diplomacy.
  • Designated as ‘Yoga and Indian Culture Acharya’, the three officials in Washington D.C, New York and Chicago are experts in Sanskrit, Yoga and Hindu scriptures.
  • They were selected by the Indian Council for Cultural Relations through a special recruitment process and have diplomatic passports and offices in Indian missions.
  • Their appointment is initially for two years, extendable by two more. All three have the mandate to travel around and organise events that promote ‘Indian culture’.
  • Giving a glimpse into the initiative, Mokshraj, one of the three ‘Acharyas’ who joined on January 12, said: “ Jaisi drishti, vaisisrishti — you act according to your vision.”
  • “This is the vision of the current government, but previous governments did not have this,” Mr. Mokshraj, a Ph.D in Vedas from the Rajasthan Sanskrit University, said.
  •  Dayashankar Vidyalankar, an ‘Acharya’ at the Indian Consulate in New York, tells that the entire world was “guided by the wisdom of Vedas at one time but we lost that due to various factors.
  • After Independence, this is the first time that India has a government that thinks that Indian culture should be propagated. That is how I am here.”


RBI set for Special audit on PSB frauds

  • Rattled by a spate of banking frauds, RBI has initiated special audit of State-owned lenders with focus on trade financing activities, especially relating to issuance of letters of undertaking (LoUs) by them, banking sources said.
  • In addition, the RBI has asked all banks for details of the LoUs they had issued, including the amounts outstanding, and whether the banks had pre-approved credit limits or kept enough cash on margin before issuing the guarantees.
  • Most of the big banking frauds, which were unearthed in the recent past, including the one perpetuated by diamantaire Nirav Modi and his associates, pertain to trade finance.
  • Also, many of the wilful default cases have their roots in trade finance, the sources told PTI.
  • In view of the recent Rs. 12,646-crore PNB scam, perpetuated through fraudulent issuance of LoUs with the connivance of the bank’s staff, it was pertinent for the regulator RBI to examine the issue of trade finance which also included issuance of letters of credit (LC) and LoUs.
  • The government recently asked the State-owned banks to scrutinise all cases of non-performing assets (NPAs) exceeding Rs. 50 crore for possible fraud and report the matter to the Central Bureau of Investigation.
  • Banks have also been asked by Finance Ministry to come up with a “pre-emptive” action plan in a fortnight to combat rising operational and technical risks, and assign clear accountability to senior functionaries.

Broder package for Financial Reforms for resolving NPA: IMF

  • The IMF has said that the recapitalisation of India’s public sector banks should be part of a broader package of financial reforms to speed up the resolution of their massive non-performing assets, which has attracted attention in the backdrop of the Nirav Modi case.
  • Recent policy reforms to address vulnerabilities in the banking and corporate sectors in India have been significant, International Monetary Fund Deputy Managing Director Tao Zhang said ahead of his visit to India.
  • According to a recent Assocham-Crisil study, India’s banking sector will be saddled with gross non-performing assets (GNPAs) worth a staggering Rs. 9.5 lakh crore by March-end, up from Rs. 8 lakh crore a year-earlier.
  • “We think the PSB recapitalisation should be part of a broader package of financial reforms to speed up the resolution of NPAs, improve PSB governance, reduce the role of the public sector in the financial system, and enhance bank lending capacity and practices,” Mr. Zhang told PTI in an interview.
  • He added the Indian economy now seemed to be on its way to recovering from disruptions caused by demonetisation and the roll-out of the goods and services tax.
  • “With the economy expanding by 7.2% in the latest quarter, India has regained the title of the fastest-growing major economy, Mr. Zhang said.
  • Calling this development a ‘welcome change’, Mr. Zhang said the growth prospects remained positive.
    Positive about higher output: FCCI
  • Manufacturers had a positive outlook for the sector during theJanuary-March quarter on the back of higher production, industry body FICCI said.
  • “The percentage of respondents reporting higher production in the fourth quarter has increased significantly vis-a-vis the previous quarter of 2017-18.
  • “The proportion of respondents reporting higher output growth during Q4 2017-18 has increased significantly to 55% from 47% in Q3,” FICCI said in its latest quarterly survey on manufacturing.
  • Also, the percentage of respondents reporting low production has come down to 11% in the fourth quarter from 15% in the preceding quarter, it added.
  • In terms of order book, 51% of the respondents said they were expecting a higher number of orders as against 42% in the previous quarter, which is “a sign of revival,” the industry body said.
  • The survey assessed the expectations of manufacturers in 12 major sectors, including automotive, capital goods, pharmaceuticals, food products and textiles among others.
  • The report said high growth was expected in the automotive and capital goods segments in the fourth quarter, while sectors such as cement and ceramics, leather and footwear, chemicals and pharmaceuticals were expected to see moderate growth.
  • Low growth was expected in textile machinery and textile sectors in the January-March 2018 quarter, it added.
    Two factor authentication to protect enterprise applications
  • A majority IT professionals in India expect their organisations to start using two-factor authentication to protect enterprise applications in the future, with almost half expecting this to happen within the next year, according to a private survey.
  • “[as much as] 78% believe the use of two-factor authentication to protect applications in the future will increase within the next year,” said the survey conducted by digital security firm Gemalto.
  • It added that biometric and one-time password-based authentication would be the preferred mode.
  • Almost all respondents said that two-factor authentication would be able to contribute towards their organisation’s ability to comply with data protection regulations and pass security audits.
  • The use of two-factor authentication method is a part of organisations’ efforts to ‘consumerise’ the login process to ensure ease of use while strengthening the security.
  • Majority organisations believe that the authentication methods they implement in their businesses are not as good compared with those found on popular sites, including Amazon and Facebook.
  • The survey was conducted amongst 1050 IT decision-makers in the three-month period from September-November 2017 globally.
  • According to the survey, in India, more than 50% of the respondents believed that web portals and cloud/mobile applications were the biggest targets for cyberattacks.

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