The Union Cabinet approved the release of an
additional 1% of dearness allowance (DA) to Central government employees and
dearness relief (DR) to pensioners. This will be applicable retrospectively
from July 1, 2017.
The release of the additional instalment of DA
represents an increase of 1% over the existing rate of 4% of the basic
pay/pension, to compensate for price rise.
According to the government, the combined impact on
the exchequer on account of both DA and DR increases will be Rs. 3,068.26 crore
per annum and Rs. 2045.50 crore in the financial year 2017-18 (for the eight
months from July 2017 to February 2018).
This will benefit about 49.26 lakh Central
government employees and 61.17 lakh pensioners
The Cabinet also approved a proposed law amendment
to double the maximum gratuity payout to private sector workers from Rs. 10 lakh
to Rs. 20 lakh.
The Payment of Gratuity (Amendment) Bill, 2017,
will be introduced in Parliament soon to bring parity between public and private
The government is of the view that the entitlement
of gratuity should be revised for employees who are covered under the Payment of
Gratuity Act, 1972.
Detecting serious irregularities in the
implementation of the much-hyped Swachh Bharath Mission (SBM) aimed at
ending open defecation in the tribal regions of Attappady, the Vigilance and
Anti-Corruption Bureau (VACB) has initiated recovery of the plundered amount
with 18% interest.
A detailed investigation carried out by the agency
has found that a major share of the funds earmarked for the Open Defecation Free
(ODF) scheme in Attappady had been channelised by non-tribals illegally with the
tacit support of corrupt officials, local politicians, and intermediaries.
The mission to construct toilets failed to bring
about any change in the lives of tribespeople in the rain shadow Attappady
region where even finding water to meet drinking needs is a huge challenge.
Officials have found that in a number cases, the funds were diverted by making
minor alterations to existing toilets.
In certain cases, just the toilet room was
constructed, in such a way as to use it for storing dried cow dung and firewood.
In some hamlets, just the pit was made.
As per the data available with the SBM, a total of
4,665 toilets were sanctioned under the ODF scheme for Attappady.
Each beneficiary had to receive Rs. 25,400 for the
toilet facility and it included additional funds from the Palakkad district
District Collector P. Suresh Babu has started
issuing notices to illegal beneficiaries directing them to return the sanctioned
amount along with 18% interest.
‘Hindu couples who have mutually agreed to
separate need not wait anymore for the mandatory “cooling off” period of six
months before divorce, the Supreme Court held.
Once a couple moves a court of law for divorce
under the Hindu Marriage Act, they have to wait for a minimum period of six
Divorce by mutual consent was introduced as an
amendment to the Hindu Marriage Act in 1976.
The waiting period under Section 13B was mandated
to prevent couples from taking any hasty decision to end their marriage.
Marriage is a sacrament in Hinduism.
The waiting period was for them to have enough time
to think through their decision to separate.
Divorce was granted only after the ‘cooling off’
period and once the court found there was no further chance for reconciliation.
“The waiting period will only prolong their agony,”
a Bench of Justices A.K. Goel and U.U. Lalit observed in their judgment.
The court held that the waiting period should be
done away with in cases where there is no way to save the marriage and all
efforts at mediation and conciliation have run their course; where parties have
genuinely settled their differences including alimony, custody of child, etc,
between themselves; and already a year and a half has passed since their first
motion for separation.
The application for waiver of waiting period can be
filed in court within a week of their first motion for separation. The
proceedings can be done through video-conferencing, the court observed.
The University Grants Commission announced the
beginning of a 90-day application process for universities public and
private to seek the status of institutions of eminence, which will provide
them freedom from the regular regulatory mechanisms.
Twenty institutions 10 public and 10 private will
be given this status with the aim to give them freedom to become world-class
The 10 state-run institutions will have an
additional benefit provision of Rs. 10,000 crore over a period of 10 years, over
and above the regular grants.
The aim of the scheme is to help institutions break
into the top 500 global rankings in 10 years, and then break into the top 100
By March-April 2018, the chosen institutions will
be accorded the status of “Institutions of Eminence” with a mandate to achieve
world-class status over 10 years.
The institutions which can apply are divided into
three categories existing government educational institutions, existing private
higher educational institutions and sponsoring organisation for setting up of
Institutions in the top 50 of the National
Institute Ranking Framework rankings or those who have secured ranking among top
500 of the Times Higher Education World University Rankings, QS University
Rankings or Shanghai Ranking Academic Ranking of World Universities are eligible
The HRD Ministry will set up an empowered expert
committee to process the applications.
The Supreme Court modified its November 2016
ban on the sale of firecrackers in the National Capital Region (NCR), noting
that a complete ban is “too radical a step.”
The apex court lifted its suspension of valid
permanent licences in the NCR, which encompasses the entire National Capital
Territory of Delhi, including New Delhi as well as urban areas surrounding it in
the neighbouring States of Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan.
On November 11, 2016, the Supreme Court had ordered
the suspension of all licences permitting the sale of fireworks, wholesale and
retail within the NCR till further orders.
It had banned the grant or renewal of firecracker
licences on a slew of petitions seeking a ban on the use of fireworks. Further,
the air quality had worsened manifold after Deepavali in 2016.
In a paradigm shift from its stand last year, the
court struck a balance between its primary concern to protect the “human right
to breathe good quality air” and the commercial interests of the fireworks
industry. It has now opted for a “graded approach” to prohibition of fireworks.
The modification is a big relief to Sivakasi
fireworks manufacturers, who had challenged the 2016 ban. They contended the ban
had left 821 fireworks industries and five lakh employees in dire straits.
Consequently, a complete ban on the sale of
fireworks would be an extreme step that might not be fully warranted by the
facts available to us. There is, therefore, some justification for modifying the
interim order passed on November 11, 2016 and lifting the suspension of the
permanent licences. it is necessary to ensure that injustice is not caused to
those who have already been granted a valid permanent licence to possess and
sell fireworks in Delhi and the NCR.
A large number of HIV positive persons don’t
know their infection status
Experiences in Ganjam, the most HIV-infection prone
district in Odisha, have hinted that progress on the ‘90-90-90’ target set by
the United Nations Programme on HIV and AIDS (UNAIDS) has been tardy in the
As per the ‘90-90-90’ target, 90% of all HIV
infected persons should get diagnosed and know their HIV positive status. Ninety
per cent of these diagnosed HIV positive persons are to be provided regular
Therapy (ART), and 90% of people taking ART should
show signs of viral suppression, which reduces their scope of infection.
Only a small section of HIV-infection prone people
have got themselves tested. It means that a large number of HIV-positive persons
do not know their HIV infection status.
As per a study, at any time of the year over five
lakh rural males of reproductive age from Ganjam stay away from their families
as migrant labourers outside Odisha.
But the total number of persons tested in Ganjam in
a year is around 90,000,
It means most migrant labourers, who have chances
of bringing back HIV infection to their homes in Ganjam, do not get tested.
$737 mn deal with U.S. on the howitzer
An M-777 ultralight howitzer from the U.S. was
damaged during field testing in Pokhran on September 2.
Last November, India signed a deal with the U.S.
government under the Foreign Military Sales programme for 145 of these guns at a
cost of $737 million.
During the firing, the projectile which was the
fifth of the series exited the barrel in multiple pieces.
The gun, manufactured by BAE Systems of the U.S.,
was using Indian ammunition, and the field trial was under way for compilation
of firing tables.
The extent of damage to the barrel is being
assessed by a joint investigation team. No one has been injured.
Field trials will resume after an analysis is
conducted by the investigation team.
BAE Systems said in a statement that it was working
closely with the Indian Army and the U.S. government to evaluate the incident.
As part of the agreement, two guns arrived in April
for calibrating range tables and three more guns will be arriving in September
2018 for training.
Deliveries are slated to start in March 2019 and at
the rate of five guns a month, will be completed by mid-2021. While 25 guns will
be imported, the remaining 120 will be assembled in India by the Mahindra group.
The Army has not inducted any new artillery gun
after the Swedish Bofors in the 1980s.
After several failed attempts, many deals are in
The M-777 agreement was the first one to be
As the Union government remains undecided on
the procedure to deport the Rohingya, it is all set to give citizenship to
over one lakh Chakma-Hajongs, Buddhists and Hindus who fled to India in the
1960s to escape religious persecution in the Chittagong Hill area of
Bangladesh (undivided Pakistan then).
Home Minister Rajnath Singh will chair a meeting
where a final decision to grant citizenship to the Chakma-Hajongs will be taken.
Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Pema Khandu will
be present at the meeting.
They would be granted citizenship but will not have
any land ownership rights in Arunachal Pradesh, a predominantly tribal State.
The Arunachalis have opposed giving any rights to Chakma-Hajongs.
They would be free to buy land anywhere else in
India but not in Arunachal Pradesh. They could continue to live in the transit
camps where they have been housed since 1964-65.
Any procedure on deportation of Rohingya will be an
extrapolation of the existing policy on Bangladesh. First step is to identify
them as most of them claim they are Indians. The number of Rohingya living in
India is an estimate by the intelligence agencies. Identifying an undocumented
citizen was a long process.
The police will have to enquire if the person is
not an Indian citizen. Then he or she will be declared a foreigner. A foreigner
not having a document is an illegal immigrant. A communication will be sent to
Myanmar to verify their address. Deporting them will be the last step and the
process has not been finalised yet.
Pakistani lawyer files petition in Lahore High
Court to set sentence aside
Eighty-six years after revolutionary Bhagat Singh
was hanged for the murder of a British police officer, a Pakistani lawyer is
fighting to prove the legendary Indian freedom fighter’s innocence in a Lahore
Advocate Imtiaz Rashid Qureshi filed a fresh
petition in the Lahore High Court for the early hearing of his case to prove
The Division Bench of the Lahore High Court had in
February 2016 asked the Chief Justice of Pakistan to constitute a larger Bench
to hear the petition by Mr. Qureshi, who runs the Lahore-based Bhagat Singh
Memorial Foundation. But no action has been taken yet.
In the petition, Mr. Qureshi said Singh was a
freedom fighter and fought for the freedom of undivided India.
His petition wants the court to set aside the
sentence of Singh by exercising principles of review and order the government to
honour him with a state award.
Singh was hanged by British rulers on March 23,
1931 at the age of 23 in Lahore, after being tried on charges of hatching a
conspiracy against the colonial government. The case was filed against Singh,
Sukhdev and Rajguru for allegedly killing John P. Saunders.
In 2014, the Lahore police searched through records
of the Anarkali police station on the court’s order and managed to find the
First Information Report on Saunders’ killing in 1928.A copy of the FIR was
provided to Qureshi on the court’s order.
Written in Urdu, the FIR was registered with the
Anarkali police station on December 17, 1928 at 4.30 p.m. against two ‘unknown
The case was registered under Sections 302, 1201
and 109 of the Indian Penal Code. Singh’s name was not mentioned in the FIR,
though he was eventually handed down the death sentence for the murder.
Zoological Survey of India produces first
exhaustive compendium of animal diversity in the Sundarban islands and the
threats it faces
In a first, the Zoological Survey of India (ZSI)
has published an compendium of animal species in the Indian Sundarbans,
estimating that there are 2,626 of them in the fragile island ecosystem. The
listing includes a diverse 25 phyla, as they are biologically classified.
The Indian segment of the Sundarbans, part of a
UNESCO World Heritage site, forms part of the Ganga-Brahmaputra delta across
9,630 sq. km, distributed among 104 islands.
The region hosts 2,487 species that come under the
zoological kingdom of Animalia, and 140 under the more primitive Protista.
The publication titled Fauna ofSundarbanBiosphere
Reserve is the first consolidated and updated information of the faunal
diversity of the Sundarbans. It lists over 2,600 species, including the new
species described from the mangrove ecosystem as well as threats faced by them
due to climate change.
The publication catalogues the entire faunal
diversity of Sundarban Biosphere Reserve covering 9,630 sq. km spread over 19
blocks in South 24 Parganas and North 24 Parganas of West Bengal.
The researchers document the famous tigers of these
islands, which have adapted to aquatic conditions around, the human-tiger
conflict, and behaviour of the big cat.
The fortunes of 50 mammalian species including the
Asian small-clawed Otter, Gangetic Dolphin, Grey and Marsh Mongoose and the wild
Rhesus Monkey, the only primate here, are also documented.
Due to pressure on habitat from people and natural
threats that have shrunk the mangrove swamp habitat, mammal numbers are
Two Rhinos, Swamp deer, Barking deer and Hog deer
and Asiatic Wild Water Buffalo are not found in Sundarbans anymore.
There are 356 species of birds, the most
spectacular being raptors, or birds of prey, that occupy the highest canopies of
the forest. Osprey, Brahminy Kite and White-Bellied Sea Eagle are dominant,
while Rose-ringed parakeets, flycatchers and warblers are also found in the
middle tier, while in the lower tier, kingfishers abound — and the Sundarbans
has nine of them.
There are 11 turtles, including the famous Olive
Ridley and Hawskbill sea turtles and the most threatened freshwater species, the
A crocodile, 13 lizards including three species of
Monitor Lizards and five Geckos are found here. The rivers, creeks channels and
the islands together harbour about 30 snake species, led by the King Cobra,
considered vulnerable by IUCN.
Others documented are the Monocellate or monocled
cobra, Russell’s viper, common and banded kraits. Besides, ten species of frogs
and toads are found.
The mangrove ecosystem covers about 350 species of
fish. Cartilaginous fish, which have skeletons of cartilage rather than bone,
make up 10.3%. The IUCN conservation status shows 6.3% fish are near-threatened
and 4.85% are threatened. Also, there are 173 molluscs.
In another indication of its richness, 753 insect
species are encountered in the Sundarban Biosphere Reserve. Of these, 210 are
butterflies and moths. Moreover, Crustaceans crabs, shrimp and prawns constitute
Describing the atrocities on Rohingyas as
“violation of human rights”, Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina urged
Myanmar to safely take their nationals back to their land.
“Stop violence against innocent people,” Ms. Hasina
said, adding that though Bangladesh would provide refuge to those coming in on
humanitarian grounds, they would eventually have to go back to their country.
Visiting the biggest Rohingya refugee camp in
Ukhia’s Kutupalang Ms. Hasina categorically said what was happening in Myanmar
was “inhuman, a violation of human rights.”
Before distributing relief materials to the
refugees who arrived in droves since the Myanmar military allegedly began an
offensive, Ms. Hasina said Bangladesh only wanted “peace and good relations”
with its neighbours, however, that it could not accept “unjust acts” the Myanmar
government was committing.
“Still, the fire is burning there...people can’t
find out their family members...the bodies of infants and women are floating on
the Naf River, these go completely against humanity and are violation of human
rights,” the Prime Minister said.
Two U.S. scientists whose work has contributed
to creating immunological treatments for cancer are among the winners of
this year’s Balzan Prizes, recognising scholarly and scientific
Another winner is economist Bina Agarwal, a
professor at the University of Manchester, who was recognised in the gender
studies category for her “heroic” work studying women’s contributions to
agriculture in India.
James Allison of the University of Texas MD
Anderson Cancer Center and Robert Schreiber of the Washington University School
of Medicine were cited for their work on antibody treatments that has increased
the survival of patients with metastatic melanoma.
The Balzan Foundation awards two prizes in the
sciences and two in the humanities each year, rotating specialities to highlight
new or emerging areas of research and sustain fields that might be overlooked
Recipients receive 750,000 Swiss francs (Rs. 5
crore), half of which must be used for research, preferably by young scholars or
Nobel Prize-winner Jules Hoffman, a presenter of
the awards, said the work focusing on using the immune system to fight cancer,
expanding from the traditional treatments of removal, radiation and
chemotherapy, has already had success in 25 to 30% of melanoma patients in a
study who had previously gone through the traditional battery of treatments. It
is now being developed for small cell lung cancer and rectal cancer.
The other winners include a Belgian astrophysicist
Michael Gillon for his work that has helped map new solar systems from the
comfort of planet Earth, using robotic telescopes instead of much more costly
Germans Aleida and Jan Assmann, a married couple
recognised for their work presenting collective memory “as a requirement for the
formation of the identity of religious and political communities”, will also be
This year, the Balzan Foundation also awarded a
fifth prize, in international relations, which was deferred from last year after
the committee failed to reach agreement on a winner. It went to Robert O.
Keohane of the
Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton University, best
known for his influential 1984 book After Hegemony: Cooperation and Discord in
the World Political Economy .
Prizes will be awarded in Bern, Switzerland.
The rising imbalance in trade with India is a
concern for America and India must open its market to more American
companies, U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said.
Mr. Ross said India must also take more effective
measures to protect innovation by improving its intellectual property
The Commerce Secretary was addressing a gathering
at the U.S.-India Business Council on the forthcoming Global Entrepreneurship
Summit (GES) in Hyderabad in November.
“[U.S.] President [Donald] Trump and Prime Minister
[Narendra Modi] have announced to co-host this year’s GES in Hyderabad and
[they] reiterated the importance of close relations between our two growing
Annual bilateral trade between the U.S. and India
has doubled over the last decade and was $114 billion in 2016. Unfortunately,
over the same period, trade deficit tripled, now at $27 billion.
The imbalance was visible in investments as well.
While India’s investors invested $12.1 billion in the U.S. last year, U.S.
investors invested $32.9 billion in India. That only 1.5 % of U.S. exports were
to India, while only 6.3 % of Indian exports goes to America.
India and the U.S have decided to move to the 2+2
format of engagement involving the Secretaries of Defence and State Departments
from the American side and Ministers for Defence and External Affairs Ministers
from the Indian side.
The Strategic and Commercial Dialogue between the
two countries is being discontinued from this year.
Over 100 MPs from across political spectrum
back efforts to get country’s community recognised as separate ethnic group
Over 100 British MPs, from across the political
spectrum, are backing efforts to get Britain’s large Sikh community recognised
as a separate ethnic group by Britain’s official statistics body.
A letter to Britain’s National Statistician John
Pullinger had garnered signatures from 113 MPs, following community efforts to
push for the change, which they believe will improve access to public services
for the community, as well as greater acknowledgement of the challenges faced by
A number of issues faced by Sikhs ranging from
reporting of hate crimes through to accessing healthcare provision in the U.K.
are not receiving appropriate attention by public bodies as they often only
monitor ethnic group categories specified in the census.
The current categories for Asian background include
Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Chinese, and Other.
With the legislation for the 2021 census due to go
before Parliament next year the next few weeks would be crucial said Davinder
Singh, principal adviser for the Sikh Federation U.K., which has long been
campaigning on this issue, and which is due to meet with the ONS alongside the
Britain first began gathering ethnic group data in
its census in 1991, but the issue gained relevance in 2000 when legislation
required public bodies and others to monitor their provision of services to
The lack of data on the Sikh community made other
things harder too such as the race audit commissioned by the government last
year to look into racial disparities in the delivery of public services.
Over 40,000 schools, hospitals and other bodies use
ethnic group data from the census to plan and make decisions on their
provisions, and many that the Sikh Federation had worked with had indicated that
having the separate category would help them in better carrying out their work.
The move is unlikely to be opposed by India,
sources suggested, adding that there was recognition that being Indian and Sikh
were not the same thing.
“One more thing.” With that phrase, Apple paid
homage to its late co-founder Steve Jobs on the 10th anniversary of the
iPhone at Cupertino in California when it unveiled its latest and almost
certainly most expensive new version of the device, the iPhone X.
CEO Tim Cook called it “the biggest leap forward”
since the first iPhone. (“X” is pronounced 10, not the letter X.) It loses the
home button, which revolutionised smartphones when it launched, offers an
edge-to-edge screen and will use facial recognition to unlock the phone.
Apple also unveiled a new iPhone 8 and a larger 8
Plus with upgrades to cameras, displays and speakers. Those phones, Apple said,
will shoot pictures with better colours and less distortion, particularly in
The display will adapt to ambient lighting, similar
to a feature in some iPad Pro models. Speakers will be louder and offer deeper
bass. Both iPhone 8 versions will allow wireless charging, a feature thought to
be limited to the anniversary phone. Many Android phones, including those made
by Samsung, already have this.
This is the first product event for Apple at its
new spaceship—like headquarters in Cupertino, California. Before getting to the
new iPhone, the company unveiled a new Apple Watch model with cellular service
and an updated version of its Apple TV streaming device.
Indian banks will need about $65 billion
additional capital to meet the new Basel-III norms that will be fully
implemented by end March 2019, rating agency Fitch said..
While capital needs have fallen from the ratings
agency’s earlier estimate of $90 billion due to asset rationalisation and
weaker-than-expected loan growth, state-run banks which accounted for 95% of the
estimated capital requirement, have limited options to raise the capital, Fitch
Prospects for internal capital generation are weak
and low investor confidence impedes access to the equity capital market. State
banks are likely to be dependent on the state to meet core capital requirements.
Fitch said the government will have to pump in more
than double, even on a bare minimum basis and excluding buffers, to raise loan
growth, address weak provision cover, and aid in effective bad loan resolution.
The gross non-performing loan ratio has reached 9.7% in FY17, up from 7.8% in
The government is committed to investing only
another $3 billion in fresh equity for 21 State banks over FY18 and FY19, having
already provided most of the originally budgeted $11 billion. On cases that have
filed for bankruptcy, Fitch said most banks do not expect haircuts to exceed
However, those loss assumptions may look optimistic
considering the first resolution of corporate debt under the government's new
insolvency code produced a recovery rate of just 6%. Banks argue this cannot be
extrapolated to the other exposures, which they say are backed by more
Action follows cancellation of registration of
2.1 lakh defaulting companies
The Ministry of Corporate Affairs (MoCA) has said
it has identified 1.06 lakh directors of 'shell companies' for disqualification
under the relevant provisions of the Companies Act, 2013. This is part of
actions to break the network of ‘shell companies’ and the fight against black
money/money laundering activities.
Professionals including Chartered Accountants,
Company Secretaries and Cost Accountants associated with such defaulting firms
and involved in illegal activities have been identified in certain cases and the
action by professional institutes such as ICAI, ICSI and ICoAI is being
There is the possibility of using the shell
companies for laundering black money. By the end of this month, MoCA would be
ready with the relevant details of all defaulting Directors of these shell
companies. This whole exercise shall go a long way in creating an atmosphere of
confidence and faith in the system paving the way for ease of doing business in
The move is pursuant to the MoCA’s action of
cancellation of registration of around 2.10 lakh defaulting companies and
subsequent direction of the finance ministry to banks to restrict operations of
bank accounts of such companies by the directors of such companies or their
authorized representatives, the MoCA said.
Retail inflation accelerated to a five-month
high of 3.36% in August, spurred by sharper increases in the prices of food
items particularly vegetables and fruits.
Price gains measured by the Consumer Price Index
quickened from July’s 2.36%, as the food and beverages segment posted a growth
of 1.96% in August, compared with the 0.43% uptick in July.
Separately, industrial output as gauged by the
Index of Industrial Production (IIP) witnessed a growth of 1.2% in July,
rebounding from a contraction of 0.1% in June. Improvements in performance at
the mining and electricity sectors buoyed the index, with expansion in the
mining sector at 4.8%, up from 0.4% in June.
The electricity sector grew 6.5% in July,
accelerating from 2.1% in the previous month.
Manufacturing, however, grew only 0.1%. Still, this
was an improvement from June’s 0.4% contraction.
Although the IIP has improved compared to the
previous month, the level is still very low, so it cannot be taken as a symptom
of a turnaround in the economy. The electricity and mining sectors are largely
driven by the government’s own demand. Some improvement was expected because of
the government’s own expenditure.
With retail inflation now edging closer to the
Reserve Bank of India’s upper bound for price gains, economists see reduced
prospects for any immediate interest rate cut by the central bank.
With August headline inflation on the higher end of
the central bank’s 2-3.5% target for the first half of the current fiscal year,
any lingering expectations for an October rate cut were likely to be doused.
Prices of various vegetables such as tomatoes and,
to a smaller extent, potatoes, have eased in month-on-month terms so far in
September 2017, which would contain the uptick in food inflation in the current
The fuel and light segment witnessed a marginal
quickening: at 4.94% from 4.86% in July. The housing segment saw an acceleration
in inflation to 5.58% from 4.98%.
The staggered impact on the housing index of the
CPI, of the revision in HRA (house rent allowance) of central government
employees, is likely to continue to push up housing inflation further over the
While the overall primary goods category of IIP
grew 2.3% in July, rebounding from a contraction of 0.2% in June, the capital
goods sector continued to contract, shrinking by 1% in July following June’s
Consumer durables, too, contracted in July, by
1.3%, compared with a contraction of 2.1% in June.
Investment demand remains weak as capital goods
production continued to contract. While the festival season could see some
demand revival, “any meaningful recovery may take longer to take hold.