Current Affairs June 30, 2017

1) India becomes 1st country to give to UN Tax Fund with $100000 contribution
•India has contributed $100,000 to a UN fund to help developing countries actively participate in the discussion of tax issues, becoming the first country to make the contribution. The UN Tax Trust Fund aims to support the work of the Committee of Experts on International Cooperation in Tax Matters.
•The UN Tax Committee, a subsidiary body of the UN Economic and Social Council (ESOSOC), has provided guidance on current issues such as double taxation treaties, transfer pricing (profit shifting) taxation of the extractive industries and taxation of services.
2) Govt. unveils new hydrocarbon policy
•Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan introduced a new oil and gas block licensing policy that is expected to open up 2.8 million square kilometers of sedimentary basins to exploration and production activities.
•The Minister was at the inauguration of the government’s Open Acreage Licensing Policy (OALP) and the National Data Repository. The OALP, a part of the government’s Hydrocarbon Exploration and Licensing Policy (HELP), gives exploration companies the option to select the exploration blocks on their own, without having to wait for the formal bid round from the Government.
3) Dr. Jitendra Singh launches new training programme ‘COMMIT’ for State Government officials
•The Minister of State for Public Grievances & Pensions, Atomic Energy and Space, Dr. Jitendra Singh launched a new training program ‘Comprehensive Online Modified Modules on Induction Training’ (COMMIT) for State Government officials.
•The objective of this training program is to improve the public service delivery mechanism and provide citizen-centric administration through capacity building of officials who interact with the citizens on day-to-day basis. COMMIT will be launched in 6 States of Assam, Haryana, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Telangana and West Bengal initially on the pilot basis during the current financial year 2017-18 and within next year it is expected to cover all India level.
4) Uttarakhand gets award of excellence at international meet
•Uttarakhand was conferred with the award of excellence at the 2nd Global Skill Development Summit held in Paris recently for innovations and extensive use of IT for skilling the state’s youth.
•Project Director of Uttarakhand Skill Development Committee Pankaj Kumar Pandey received the honor on behalf of the state on the concluding day of the event.
5) Vijay Keshav Gokhale appointed economic relations secretary in MEA
•Senior diplomat Vijay Keshav Gokhale was appointed as the economic relations secretary in the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA). The Appointments Committee of the Cabinet has approved his appointment.
•Mr. Gokhale, a 1981-batch officer of Indian Foreign Service (IFS), is at present India’s envoy to China. He was the High Commissioner of India to Malaysia from 2010 to 2013.
6) Adi Godrej, Andrew Liveris bag USIBC Global Leadership Awards
•Godrej Group Chairman Adi Godrej and Dow Chemical CEO Andrew Liveries have been awarded the Global Leadership Awards of the US-India Business Council for their role in integrating India in the global supply chain.
•Liveris and Godrej were presented with the prestigious annual award at the USIBC’s annual gala. Both were honored for creating inclusive business environments, integrating India in the global supply chain and advancing core values such as manufacturing, innovation and scale in tough market conditions.

The HINDU Notes June 30, 2017

Heaviest satellite of ISRO launched

GSAT-17 will join 17 communication satellites in orbit
•A 39-minute dusk launch at the South American space port of Kourou placed GSAT-17 in space as the newest Indian communication satellite. The launch took place at 2.45 a.m. IST on Thursday.
•The 3,477-kg spacecraft, the heaviest built by the Indian Space Research Organisation, will soon join the ring of 17 working national communication satellites that are already in orbit. It will add to the services they provide for broadcasting, telecommunications, VSAT services, meteorology, search and rescue, among others, ISRO said.
•Said to have over 40 transponders in different bands, “GSAT-17 is designed to provide continuity of services of operational satellites in C, extended C and S bands,” it said.
•In Bengaluru, ISRO Chairman A.S. Kiran Kumar said, “We have been short of satellite capacity and need to continue adding it for some more time. However, the [transponders] scene is definitely improving” after recent launches of communication satellites.
•The satellite and its foreign launch were approved in May 2015 with an outlay of Rs. 1,013 crore. It went to orbit on the Ariane-5 ECA rocket VA-238, operated by European launch services agency Arianespace.
•When it sends the 5,700-kg GSAT-11 this year-end again on an Ariane booster, ISRO hopes it will be its last foreign launch, says Mr. Kiran Kumar.

India gets a sharper eye in the sky

Recently launched Cartosat-2E sends pictures from 500 km above the earth
•A railway station in Rajasthan and eye-catching locations in Qatar and Egypt are among the early pictures beamed down by the week-old Cartosat-2 series spacecraft.
•The satellite, known as Cartosat-2E, is the third Indian remote sensing (IRS) or earth observation satellite that can send 60-cm resolution pictures from an orbit 500 km above the earth.
•Primarily it will provide useful space-based data for town planners, creators of urban infrastructure, for agriculture and project monitoring, and for decision makers in Smart City and AMRUTH projects, said a senior official of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO).
•Its applications apart, ISRO Chairman A.S. Kiran Kumar agreed that availability of high-resolution Cartosat-2E data to civil agencies would drive down import of remote sensing imageries from foreign EO satellites.
‘Will reduce imports’
•“[The new EO satellite] can definitely reduce imagery imports. We will work towards that. Its data will be more than adequate for a large number of applications,” he told The Hindu.
•Cartosat-2E is the sixth and last of the second generation cartography themed series, which started in 2007 with Cartosat-2 and includes Cartosat-2A, 2B, 2C and 2D.
•The last three are said to be exclusive to defence and security agencies. Cartosat-2E offers images of the same 60-cm resolution as 2C and 2D; the same feature is now available for the genuine use of civil agencies, mostly government agencies. That is — it can capture objects that are 60-cm wide or long.
•Mr. Kiran Kumar did not mention import figures but explained that earlier, imageries had to be imported because Indian EOs offered only 1-metre resolution pictures. “Now there is the sub-metre availability which will make a significant impact.”
•A report of the Comptroller and Auditor General for 2010-11 had noted that “the prices of high resolution satellite data in the international market were six times more than the prices of comparable products” of Indian remote-sensing satellites. On the third-generation Cartosats, Mr. Kiran Kumar said they were working on Cartosat-3, the first approved spacecraft in the series.

MEA accepts U.S. use of ‘administered Kashmir’

Govt. move marks sharp shift in position on J&K
•The External Affairs Ministry, in an apparent volte face, accepted on Thursday that the U.S.’s usage of the term “Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir” was acceptable and “affirms” India’s position.
•In response to questions on the issue that has snowballed ever since the U.S. State department used the term while designating Hizbul Mujahideen commander Syed Salahuddin as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist on July 26, the MEA spokesperson said, “The use of the term ‘Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir’ merely affirms our position that Syed Salahuddin has been involved in cross-border terrorism in India”.
Objections in UN
•The acceptance of the term appears to be in contrast to the government’s position earlier this month, when the Ambassador and Permanent Representative of India to the United Nations Offices in Geneva, Mr. Rajiv Chandar told the Human Rights Council that the term was unacceptable. During the proceedings of the 35th session, Ambassador Chandar objected to the use of the term by the Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.
•“The entire State of Jammu and Kashmir is an integral part of India. Pakistan remains in illegal occupation of a part of our territory. Therefore, the neutrality of the phrase “Indian-administered Jammu & Kashmir” is artificial,” the Indian envoy had said. ( /pages.php?id=1485)
•Downplaying the significance of the American wording, the MEA spokesperson also said the term had been used before. “Similar term has been used in the State Department’s country reports on terrorism brought out every year, including in 2010-2013,” he said.
•In a second statement issued on Thursday evening the MEA added that “India’s position that the entire State of Jammu & Kashmir is an integral part of India is well known. The U.S. government has been apprised of the same once again.”
Rarely used reference
•In its report on Thursday, The Hindu had reported that the State Department website had rare references to the term “Indian-administered” and had only used it once in the context of designations of terrorists and Foreign Terrorist Organisations, in 2001.
•Former diplomats pointed out that the phrase, which was objectionable to India as New Delhi claims all of Jammu and Kashmir as an “integral part”, has been objected to in the past, even when it is used by international publications.
•“We don’t allow any map or book or magazine to be published with anything but a full map of Jammu and Kashmir. How can we accept a term like this which divides Jammu and Kashmir?” said former Ambassador Rajiv Dogra, who has served in Pakistan, and called the MEA statement “irresponsible”.

Modi’s visit to upgrade relationship with Israel

Israel clears Strategic Partnership deal on non-security issues
•Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Israel next week will be reciprocated by Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu later this year, a senior MEA official said here on Thursday.
•“We are not looking at [Mr. Modi’s] as a one-off visit, but a whole year to celebrate the 25th year of full relations between India and Israel. Many events are planned through the year, and we are hoping that by the end of the year we will see an incoming visit by their Prime Minister to India,” Secretary (Economic Relations) Amar Sinha said, speaking at an event to discuss the Prime Minister’s two day visit from July 4. Israel’s Ambassador to India Daniel Carmon attended the event at Delhi’s Vivekananda India Foundation as well.
•On Thursday, the MEA and the Israeli Embassy simultaneously announced Mr. Modi’s visit. “This significant visit, the first of an Indian Prime Minister to Israel, takes place on the backdrop of marking 25 years of diplomatic relations between India and Israel, and will further upgrade the ever growing partnership between the two countries,” the announcement said.
Industrial R&D fund
•According to officials involved in the preparations, the visit will see the partnership being upgraded to a “Strategic Partnership” on issues like Water, Agriculture, Science and Technology, and Space. Ties in more than 30 areas will be upgraded through MoUs on cybersecurity, agriculture, tourism, health, connectivity, education, Ganga rejuvenation and even “attracting Bollywood”.
•Both sides will also commit $40 million to an Industrial Research & Development fund to encourage applied scientific research, using Israeli innovation and Indian expertise. Mr. Carmon said the Israeli Cabinet had cleared the Strategic Partnership on non-security issues on June 24. “We have signed Strategic partnerships with Africa, China and Japan earlier. But this one [with India] is much more comprehensive,” he added.
•Significantly, despite the fact that India has become Israel’s largest arms export market in the world, and Israel is one of India’s largest arms suppliers, The Ambassador said there would be “no defence component” to Mr. Modi’s visit.
•In April, India signed a $2 billion deal with an Israeli firm for advanced medium-range, surface-to-air missiles (MRSAMs), the largest such deal for the Israeli industry.
•Mr. Modi will be received in Tel Aviv by Mr. Netanyahu, who is understood to have cleared his entire schedule for the three-day visitThe two leaders will address a gathering of about 6,000 Israelis of Indian origin on the July 5, at the Tel Aviv Fairgrounds convention centre and will meet with one of the youngest survivors of the Mumbai 26/11 attacks, Moshe Holtzberg, whose parents were gunned down in Mumbai’s Chabad house.

Army, PLA in a tug of war over Doklam Plateau

The area has huge strategic significance for both India and China
•The Doklam Plateau, north of the tri-junction between Sikkim, Bhutan and Tibet by Indian claim, is not just a disputed area, but has huge strategic significance for both India and China.
•The few square kilometres of the plateau, which one officer familiar with the terrain calls “more a ledge than anything else” because of its steep mountains, is witnessing a tense stand-off between detachments of the Indian Army and the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) for the past few days. There have been several incidents that have culminated in the present situation, according to sources.
Bunkers destroyed
•In recent days, the Chinese are believed to have destroyed temporary bunkers of the Indian Army, while the Indian Army is accused of objecting to a road construction by the Chinese side on the disputed area. Finally, there was also an incident of jostling among the soldiers of the two sides. Wedged between Bhutan, India and China are few areas of dispute — together accounting for just over 750 square kilometres. Among the disputed areas is Doklam (also called Donglang in China), which is just about 90 square kilometres where the present dispute is taking pace.
•For Chinese to reach the China-Bhutan border posts, Doklam provides an easy way to construct their road, and they have been trying to do so and India has consistently objected to it. Not very far from Doklam is the strategically important Chumbi Valley in the Tibetan region, to which Chinese are now planning to expand their rail connectivity.
Bigger buffer
•The disputed area also provides, according to India perspective, a bigger buffer to its sensitive Chicken’s Neck, or the Siliguri Corridor, which is an extremely narrow stretch of land that connects the north-eastern region to the rest of India. From the Chumbi Valley it is just a little over 100 kilometres away.
•“Maybe 20 years down the line, once we develop our border infrastructure at par with the Chinese, we can be more welcoming of better connectivity and be relaxed about the dispute. Not for now,” an ex-army officer with extensive knowledge of the India-China dispute said.

A welcome sale

The Centre should sell its entire stake inAir India, even if in stages
•With the Union Cabinet’s ‘in-principle’ approval for the sale of Air India and five of its subsidiaries, a long-standing demand on the reform checklist has been ticked. The rationale for the government to shovel in huge sums of money to keep the loss-making airline afloat was weakening by the year. Today, such life support, as Finance Minister Arun Jaitley recently noted, was being given when competing private airlines already cater to well over 85% of the air travel demand in the country. Government money that keeps Air India from going bankrupt would be much better used to fund important social and infrastructure programmes that are starved of precious capital each year. Air India has been surviving on a Rs. 30,000-crore bailout package put together by the United Progressive Alliance government in 2012 to help its turnaround, and the debt relief provided by public sector banks. The airline has a debt load of over Rs. 50,000 crore on its books, and it is estimated that even a well-executed asset sale may not fully cover its present liabilities. So in the event of a sale, taxpayers may have to foot at least some part of the loss — either directly in case the government pays off the airline’s creditors, or indirectly if the public sector banks write off their loans to the airline. However, it is more likely that the government may divest its three profit-making subsidiaries separately, with the proceeds going to Air India to help deal with its liabilities.
•It is not yet clear whether the airline will be fully privatised or how its eventual sale will be executed. A ministerial panel under Mr. Jaitley is expected to begin working on the details soon. But having taken the politically courageous decision to privatise Air India, the government would do well to go for the sale of its entire stake, even if it is done in a gradual manner. Eventually, the aim of the sale should be to get the best price for the airline. One good way to achieve this would be to allow both domestic and foreign buyers to bid freely for stakes. For this, the government will have to re-tune its FDI policy to allow foreign investors to buy a stake in Air India. The Civil Aviation Ministry has made a case for the sale of non-core assets first to pay off existing creditors, so that the airline becomes more attractive to private buyers. But this assumes that private buyers would not otherwise see the value in Air India’s assets. IndiGo has already expressed interest in buying a stake in Air India, with other domestic airlines reported to be serious about making a bid too. Finding a way to deal with Air India’s debt load will be the main challenge for Mr. Jaitley’s panel. How this process goes will be vital not just for Air India. If it goes relatively smoothly, that would make the task of moving forward on the disinvestment of other public sector units that much easier.

The task before the sentinel

It is time the Chief Justice of India set up the larger Bench to examine privacy challenges to Aadhaar
•The expansion of Aadhaar continues. The effort is now emboldened by a Supreme Court judgment that has stuck a band-aid on a gaping wound, which required stitches if not surgery. Individual holdouts against Aadhaar have been recognised and grudgingly protected by the judgment. There is, however, no broad declaration against an overpowering state’s propensity to stretch out to every sphere to compel individual surrender of little remnants of liberty. The architecture of enforced surveillance has been left intact.

As good as its use

•Aadhaar is a classic case of technology being amoral. The splitting of the atom gave us nuclear energy. It also gave us weapons with the capacity to destroy civilisation. Similarly, the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) began only with the mandate to confirm a citizen’s unique identity. A stand-alone authority, with biometric information and fingerprints, which could, in cases of doubt, identify with certainty any claimant of government subsidies or special services. Aadhaar’s claim was to weed out duplicates and forgeries, thus ensuring targeted distribution by administrations.
•Aadhaar’s sole purpose was as a benign guarantor of identity in cases of doubt. Any attempt by government departments to overreach this mandate was resisted by the authority. In fact, when a court ordered access to the database for a police investigation in a criminal matter, the Aadhaar authority challenged the order in the Supreme Court.
•However, the UIDAI database has today ceased to be only a neutral identifier of a person’s identity. In the Information Age, where data is the new oil, the temptation to maximise the use of an all-encompassing database is simply too strong. More and more service providers sought linkages to the data and the government ramped up the number of government and other organisations that could insist on an Aadhaar-based identity alone as a sine qua non for dealing with the user. Shortly after the Supreme Court’s recent judgment of June 9, 2017, the government publicised a prior notification of June 1, 2017, under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA). The notification makes it mandatory for bank account holders to produce an Aadhaar number.
•The government has also deliberately misconstrued an earlier Supreme Court order in order to pressurise telecom operators to make Aadhaar a requirement for all mobile phone users. Even education and health services have been used to broaden the Aadhaar net and draw in more people into the dragnet. Schools insist on newly admitted children having Aadhaar numbers, which are not given until the parents too submit to Aadhaar registration.
•There are reports that the Civil Aviation Ministry wants to make Aadhaar identification mandatory for access to commercial flights. The government has decided to make the cost of holding out unbearable to the non-compliant and present courts with a fait accompli.
•Fundamental freedoms of the individual are being routinely sacrificed at the altar of administrative expediency and the forced sacrifice is justified as being necessary for the greater common good. Not since the forced sterilisations during the Emergency has a government been so invested in an administrative goal that it has abandoned the requirement to seek “the consent of the governed”. A key to access government services has turned into a prison lock of individual liberties. An all-powerful state seems today to seek “One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them, One Ring to bring them all, and in the darkness bind them”.
Everyone is affected
•How then is this darkness to be dispelled? How are the Lords of the Rings to be brought back to democratic governance? The processes have to be both political and legal. The Mahatma as a leader was born in 1907 when an Indian barrister in Transvaal refused to register himself as a lesser inhabitant of South Africa. It is time for all political parties, including the Bharatiya Janata Party, to take a relook at the extent of control that Aadhaar gives to governments against the citizen. Today’s government is tomorrow’s opposition, and vice versa. Every party must seriously ponder the possibility that its worst opponents may one day use this technology against it.
•The Congress, which fathered the scheme, is now coming to the slow realisation of the surveillance possibilities that it has handed over to its successor. Sitaram Yechury of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) has also raised concerns during the parliamentary debates held after the Aadhaar legislation was rushed through as a money bill. A sustained parliamentary inquiry committee, spanning various ministries, should be used to rein in the system’s worst excesses. Every new administrative measure designed to be Aadhaar-reliant should seek prior approval from this parliamentary committee.
•It has been almost 700 days since the Supreme Court on August 11, 2015, referred the privacy challenges to Aadhaar to a larger Bench of possibly nine judges. The court needs to rule on whether the right to privacy is an established part of the fundamental right to life and liberty in this country. This is because, at a hearing before three judges, Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi had contended that because of judgments of the “Court in M.P. Sharma & Others v. Satish Chandra & Others , AIR 1954 SC 300 and Kharak Singh v. State of U.P. & Others , AIR 1963 SC 1295 (decided by Eight and Six Judges, respectively), the legal position regarding the existence of the fundamental right to privacy is doubtful.” He therefore contended that the “right to privacy” deemed to be accepted by subsequent smaller Benches “resulted in a jurisprudentially impermissible divergence of judicial opinions”.
•The court further records its “opinion that the cases on hand raise far reaching questions of importance involving interpretation of the Constitution. What is at stake is the amplitude of the fundamental rights including that precious and inalienable right under Article 21. If the observations made in M.P. Sharma(supra) and Kharak Singh (supra) are to be read literally and accepted as the law of this country, the fundamental rights guaranteed under the Constitution of India and more particularly right to liberty under Article 21 would be denuded of vigour and vitality. At the same time, we are also of the opinion that the institutional integrity and judicial discipline require that pronouncement made by larger Benches of this Court cannot be ignored by the smaller Benches without appropriately explaining the reasons for not following the pronouncements made by such larger Benches”.
The nine judges
•Getting together nine judges to hear at length a constitutional matter of these proportions is an administrative nightmare for any Chief Justice. But failure to do so in time permits the state to set up an architecture of surveillance that cannot be undone later.
•Chief Justice Patanjali Sastri in the early years of the Supreme Court had written: “If, then, the courts in this country face up to such important and none too easy task, it is not out of any desire to tilt at legislative authority in a crusader’s spirit, but in discharge of a duty plainly laid upon them by the Constitution. This is especially true as regards the ‘Fundamental rights’, as to which this Court has been assigned the role of a sentinel on the ‘ qui vive ’. While the Court naturally attaches great weight to the legislative judgment, it cannot desert its own duty to determine finally the constitutionality of an impugned statute.”

Making the House rules

Parliament must codify the legislature’s privileges to prevent misuse of power
•The Karnataka Legislative Assembly has found two journalists guilty of breach of its privilege and sentenced them to jail. This followed certain articles written by the journalists which were alleged to defame some legislators. This case once again raises the question of what should constitute privilege of the legislative bodies.
•The idea of privilege emerged in England as Parliament started to protect itself from excesses by the monarch. It established several rights and privileges including the freedom of members of Parliament to freely speak and vote in Parliament (including its committees).
The question of privilege
•The Indian Constitution specifies the powers and privileges of Parliament in Article 105 and those of State legislatures in Article 194. In brief, they (a) provide freedom of speech in Parliament subject to other provisions of the Constitution and standing orders of the House; (b) give immunity for all speeches and votes in Parliament from judicial scrutiny; and (c) allow Parliament (and State legislatures) to codify the privileges, and until then, have the same privileges as the British Parliament had in 1950. Till now, Parliament and State legislatures have not passed any law to codify their privileges.
•The power of privilege has been used against journalists in several instances. For example, in 2003, the Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly sentenced the publisher, editor, executive editor and two senior journalists of The Hindu and the editor of Murasoli to 15 days’ imprisonment for contempt. The action against The Hindu was taken for three articles that described the Chief Minister’s speeches and used words such as “diatribe” and “high-pitched tone”, and an editorial.
•Interestingly, the editorial commented on the privilege motion against the articles and argued that privilege must be invoked “only rarely when there is real obstruction to its functioning, and not in a way that sets legislators above ordinary comment and criticism.” The journalists obtained a stay on the arrest and the matter was referred to the Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court.
•Given this history, there are several issues that need resolution. First, what should be the privileges that protect the members of legislatures and the House? How does the privilege power sit with fundamental rights of expression and personal liberty? It is clear that members of legislatures should be able to perform their legislative duties without any obstruction, and should be free to speak and vote without fear of legal repercussions. Should the privilege extend to comments on the individual actions of members?
•Perhaps, it is better to restrict the use of privilege to proceedings of the legislature. Any member who is falsely accused of any impropriety can use the defamation route through courts. A further issue is whether the House should have the power to sentence a person to a jail term. While the British Parliament continues to have such powers, it has not used it since 1880.
•An even more fundamental question is: what are the privileges? In the absence of a code, how does one know whether an action is a breach of privilege or not? Therefore, it is important to codify them.
•In this context, it may be pertinent to note that Australia passed the Parliamentary Privileges Act in 1987. That Act states that “words or acts shall not be taken as an offence against a House by reason only that those words or acts are defamatory or critical of Parliament, a House, a committee or a member”. However, this protection does not apply “for words spoken or acts done in the presence of a House or a committee”.
•The Act also prescribes a maximum punishment of one-year imprisonment and a fine of A$5,000. In 1999, a joint committee of the British Parliament recommended codification but this recommendation was overturned by another committee in 2013.
•It is evident that the framers of our Constitution envisaged codification of privileges. In the Constituent Assembly, Dr. Rajendra Prasad said, “Parliament will define the powers and privileges, but until Parliament has undertaken the legislation and passes it, the privileges and powers of the House of Commons will apply. So, it is only a temporary affair. Of course, Parliament may never legislate on that point and it is therefore for the members to be vigilant.”
•Parliament has examined the issue of codification. In 2008, the Committee of Privileges of Lok Sabha felt that there was no need for codification. It noted that the House had recommended punishment only five times since the first Lok Sabha, and that allegations of misuse of its powers were due to a lack of understanding of its procedures.
•Given the number of such cases, Parliament and Legislative Assemblies should pass laws to codify privilege. It may also be time for the courts to revisit the earlier judgments and find the right balance between fundamental rights of citizens and privilege of the legislature. The recent case in Karnataka gives another opportunity to examine the issue.

GST transition to pose hurdles: ADB

Pricing strategy to be crucial for firms
•Asian Development Bank president Takehiko Nakao termed the roll-out of the Goods and Services Tax as an important reform achievement of the NDA government, but suggested that it could pose challenges on account of several factors — especially the multiplicity of tax rates.
•While he commended the government’s resolve to push forward with reforms in several areas, the ADB chief said India must put more energy into reforms of its labour and land acquisition laws as well as regulations governing foreign direct investment so that the economy can grow faster than countries like China on a sustained basis.
•Speaking to reporters after meeting Finance Minister Arun Jaitley in the capital, Mr. Nakao said the impact of GST on the economy is difficult to gauge at this stage but its biggest benefit would be the integration of the Indian economy into a single market.
•“There are many different views about GST because of so many tax rates, for instance. So its application is a very important challenge. From my experiences in Japan, when we introduce a new tax, especially such an advanced instrument of taxation like GST, sometimes businesses have to think about pricing based on the new tax burden,” he said.
•Arriving at an effective pricing strategy in the GST era would be the most critical challenge for businesses and would impact their profitability, the ADB chief pointed out.
•“Some businesses can enjoy a reduction of tax burden from the previous multiple taxes to the GST, but there are also services or other businesses which would have a more tax burden. So how businesses can adjust to the new tax arrangement by pricing is one big issue. If they cannot shift the tax burden properly, they must reduce their profit,” he explained.
Multiplicity of rates
•The multiplicity of rates India has opted for the GST, would also be a challenge for officials as well as businesses.
•“There is the tax on the output and the tax credit on input, but there are so many different tax rates so how to apply different rates to different commodities and services for output as well as input, is an issue,” Mr. Nakao said.
•The dual tax enforcement structure India has adopted — whereby both States and the Centre would be in charge of enforcement — could be problematic too, the ADB chief said, mooting a clear arrangement that doesn’t make compliance difficult. “There can be some transition issues,” he concluded.
•Earlier, Mr. Jaitley met representatives of trade and industry and asked them to ensure all benefits arising out of the implementation of the new tax regime were passed on to customers, according to a statement from the Finance Ministry.

‘Reforms, CEZs to aid growth’

•Labour, land and agriculture reforms along with development of coastal economic zones (CEZs) and new cities will help India achieve rapid economic growth, according to NITI Aayog vice chairman Arvind Panagariya.
•“No doubt we can grow, but that will require a lot of reforms like labour reform, agri-related reforms and coastal zones… new cities will have to come up,” he said adding that some States were keen on creating such zones that will create employment opportunities as well.
•Mr. Panagariya, speaking at a discussion on ‘NITI Action Agenda and the Indian Economy’ organised by the Reserve Bank of India, suggested that India should undertake projects with a lower gestation period, similar to China. “We should start on a limited scale and create a few models,” he said.

The HINDU Important Articles June 30, 2017


The HINDU Notes June 29, 2017

Sea pollution blamed for mass fish death along Ganjam coast

‘Presence of high levels of ammonia near the fishing jetty’
•Seepage of urea from the fertilizer godowns at Gopalpur port is responsible for the mass death of fish and other marine animals in Ganjam district of Odisha, according to the State fisheries department.
Continuous rain
•Since June 26, a large number of dead fish and other marine animals have washed up along the fishing jetty adjacent to Gopalpur port. This happened after a few days of continuous rain.
•Since Tuesday, a team of the State fisheries department has been conducting an investigation into the mass death. Fisheries department deputy director Siba Prasad Bhoi, who is monitoring the investigation, said the presence of high levels of ammonia in the sea water near the fishing jetty could be the reason behind the mass death.
Seepage of urea
•”Seepage of urea from the fertilizer godowns of Gopalpur port near the fishing jetty is the reason behind the rise in ammonia levels at the coast,” Mr Bhoi said.
•He has already taken up the matter with the authorities of Gopalpur Ports Limited.
•“We found that some asbestos sheets on the roofs of the fertilizer godowns have been damaged. During continuous rain, water seeps from these openings and mixes with urea residue stored there, which later reaches the sea water,” Mr. Bhoi said.
Lack of oxygen
•According to Mr Bhoi, when urea mixes with sea water, it increases the ammonia level and drastically reduces the presence of dissolved oxygen in the water. Lack of oxygen for respiration kills the marine animals.
•The problem gets aggravated near the fishing jetty for another reason also. The mouth of the channel, which connects the fishing jetty to the sea, is blocked due to sand deposits. Because of this, the water near the fishing jetty is not able to mix with the water from the open sea easily.

GSAT-17 to add teeth to ISRO satellite fleet

The launch is scheduled for today
•GSAT-17, the country’s newest communication satellite to be launched, will soon join the fleet of 17 working Indian communication satellites in space and augment their overall capacity to some extent. The 3,477-kg spacecraft was set to be launched at 2.29 a.m. IST on June 29 from the European space port of Kourou in French Guiana at the time of writing this report. GSAT-17 is the second passenger on the European booster, Ariane-5 ECA VA-238, according to ISRO and the European launch company Arianespace.
•The 5,700-kg Hellas Sat 3-Inmarsat S EAN shared by two satellite operators was also put on the same booster as co-passenger. It was a pre-dusk launch in the South American space port.
•“GSAT-17 is designed to provide continuity of services of operational satellites in C, extended C and S bands,” ISRO said. Its chairman A. S. Kiran Kumar has earlier said they need double the number of communication spacecraft to support various users across the country.
Rs. 1,013 crore outlay
•The spacecraft was approved in May 2015 with an outlay of Rs. 1,013 crore, including its launch fee and insurance. GSAT-17, built mainly for broadcasting, telecommunication and VSAT services, carries over 40 transponders.
•Designed and assembled at the ISRO Satellite Centre in Bengaluru, GSAT-17 has been at the Kourou space port since May 15, undergoing pre-launch checks and tests. Project Director Prakash Rao and a rotating team of over 20 ISRO engineers have been attending to it during the period.

PLA constructing road in disputed territory at tri-junction, says Bhutan

Thimphu’s concerns may have led to border standoff
•Refuting the Chinese contention that it was constructing a road at the India-China-Bhutan tri-junction in an “indisputable” part of its territory, Bhutan has said it has conveyed to the Chinese government that this is not the case.
•In an indication that the trigger for the current standoff between India and China at Sikkim — which has led to Beijing closing the Nathu La route for Mansarovar yatris — possibly arose from Bhutan’s concerns, the Ambassador of the Royal Bhutanese Embassy in Delhi, Major-General Vetsop Namgyal, toldThe Hindu that the road construction by the Chinese Army was “progressing towards” a camp of the Royal Bhutan Army at Zom Pelri.
•“Bhutan has conveyed that the road construction by the PLA is not in keeping with the agreements between China and Bhutan [over boundary resolution],” Ambassador Namgyal said.

Not much impact of ransomware attack on India, says govt.

Operations hit at Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust in Mumbai
•With the Petya global ransomware spreading to India, the government on Wednesday said it is “closely” monitoring the situation while maintaining that there has been no large-scale impact on India yet.
•The government has, however, sent Dr. Gulshan Rai, National Cyber Security Coordinator to the Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust (JNPT), where one of three terminals was impacted, to “deal with the situation”.
•Operations at the Mumbai terminal of country’s largest container port, the JNPT, which is operated by Danish business conglomerate AP Moller-Maersk, was disrupted due to the ransomware attack.
•“The situation is being closely monitored…Since the congestion could create difficulties in traffic management, the JNPT has opened up its parking lots for cargo destined to this private terminal,” an official statement said.
•The Gujarat Pipavav Port was also partially impacted. “A.P. Moller-Maersk was hit as a part of a global cyber attack affecting multiple sites and business units, including the Gujarat Pipavav Port Limited,” the company said in a filing to the BSE.
•The Petya ransomware not only encrypts files, it locks the entire disk, making it basically unusable until the infection is removed. It shuts down the system and asks for a ransom of $300 in bitcoins on rebooting. “We have sent out warnings to the stock exchanges, the Airports Authority of India, the National Payments Corporation of India, and National Critical Information Infrastructure Protection Centre,” an IT Ministry official said. He added that the Ministry was in touch with security providers, including Kaspersky, Microsoft, McAfee and QuickHeal, as also with Computer Emergency Response Teams in the Asia Pacific region, including from Hong Kong, China and Japan. “Till Wednesday morning, no attacks were reported in these countries,” the official said.
More professional
•The Petya/Notpetya ransomware is the second major global ransomware since WannaCry hit over 3,00,000 computers across 200 countries in May. Petya, like the recent WannaCry ransomware that infected over 300,000 computers worldwide, uses the Eternal Blue exploit as one of the means to propagate itself. However, experts have warned of bigger damage this time.
•“…WannaCry’s damage was quickly minimised due to sloppy coding…Petya appears to be a much more professional attempt to employ similar methods,” Finland-based cyber security firm F-Secure said in a blogpost.

Govt. to shed stake in loss-making AI

Ministerial group under Arun Jaitley to work out the fine print for the airline’s strategic sale
•The Narendra Modi government on Wednesday took the first step towards divesting its stake in ailing national carrier Air India, with an ‘in-principle’ approval from the Cabinet and the formation of a ministerial group under Finance Minister Arun Jaitley to work out the fine print for the airline’s strategic sale.
•Sixty-four years after the airline was nationalised and over a decade after the previous NDA government put a proposed sale of Air India in cold storage, the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs gave its nod for its disinvestment, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said.
•Air India has been registering continuous net losses since over a decade.
•Plans to privatise the airline resurfaced when Mr. Jaitley told Doordarshan last month that the government would prefer investing money in social welfare sectors instead of financing the national airline’s debt of over Rs. 50,000 crore.
•A Group of Ministers has been formed to “guide the process” of disinvestment in Air India and five of its subsidiaries. Prime Minister Narendra Modi would finalise the names of other members in the group which would report back to the Cabinet with a modus operandi for the sale.
•The Cabinet also approved hikes in allowances for Central government staff based on modified recommendations of the Seventh Pay Commission. This will benefit over 48 lakh employees and cost the exchequer Rs. 30,748 crore a year.

Niti Aayog moots new regulator for coal, gas

‘Energy market not fully developed’
•Niti Aayog has suggested creation of regulators for coal as well as oil and gas.
•“Coal and upstream petroleum sectors have lacked independent, statutory regulators. Due to several reasons, including strong presence of PSUs and limited number of private operators, it was so far not found useful to place the latter in position,” it said in a draft National Energy Policy.
•“But, now with increased private activity, the time is appropriate,” it said in the new licensing policy unveiled on Wednesday.
•“Ideally, there ought to be a single regulator to govern the energy market,” the Aayog said, pointing out that in India, the market has not fully developed.
•Hence, the regulators need to devote considerable attention to development of supply. “And looking to the large inherent complexities in different fuel sources, it is pertinent that there ought to be sectoral regulators,” the NITI Aayog said.
•The think-tank said that at the level of electricity, all fuels ultimately converge into a common product which is rightly governed by a single regulator.

Govt. unveils new hydrocarbon policy

Open acreage rules may enable exploration of 2.8 million square kilometres of sedimentary basins
•Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan on Wednesday introduced a new oil and gas block licensing policy that is expected to open up 2.8 million square kilometres of sedimentary basins to exploration and production activities.
•The Minister was speaking at the inauguration of the government’s Open Acreage Licensing Policy (OALP) and the National Data Repository.
•The lack of seismic sedimentary basin data had been hampering the oil and gas exploration and production sector, the minister said, adding that 52% of India’s sedimentary basins had not been appraised as yet.
•The National Data Repository was expected to improve this situation, he said.
Option to select
•The OALP, a part of the government’s Hydrocarbon Exploration and Licensing Policy (HELP), gives exploration companies the option to select the exploration blocks on their own, without having to wait for the formal bid round from the Government. The company then submits an application to the government, which puts that block up for bid.
•The new policy will open up 2.8 million square kilometres of sedimentary basins for exploration and eventual production. Mr Pradhan said that initially the applications and related bids for the blocks would be held twice a year —in January and July — but said this could become more frequent as the industry becomes used to the new model.
•“OALP is a fundamental shift and a very transformative step in India’s E&P history,” Sudhir Mathur, Acting CEO of Vedanta Cairn Oil and Gas said. “This policy reiterates GoI’s commitment to reduce administrative & regulatory burden, thus enhancing ease of doing business.”
•“A single license to explore all forms of hydrocarbons, no oil cess, reduced rates of royalty are just few of the many enabling provisions which will stimulate investments in the sector,” Mr. Mathur added. “This decision will go a long way towards reducing import dependence and achieving India’s quest for energy security.”
Investment appetite
•Mr. Pradhan added that the recently-concluded discovered small field (DSF) bid round, though small, was encouraging as it gave an insight into the investment appetite of the sector.
•“The new policy environment has already started attracting investment into India’s upstream sector, which could help reduce imports and increase the share of gas in the country’s energy mix,” Chandrajit Banerjee, Director General, Confederation of Indian Industry said.
•During his speech, Mr. Pradhan said that his Ministry was working on developing a gas trading hub to support a robust marketing network.
•“Steps should be taken to develop a South-East Asian natural gas hub in India, which would provide a fair price for domestic natural gas through gas-on-gas competition and help eliminate price vulnerabilities arising from the oil-indexed nature of LNG import contracts,” Mr. Banerjee said.
•“About 52% of India’s sedimentary basins are unappraised, with the last appraisal taking place 25 years ago,” Mr. Pradhan said during his speech. “The lack of seismic sedimentary basin data was hampering the exploration and production (E&P) sector of the oil and gas industry.”

Sri Lanka, India to set up solar unit soon


Plans to undertake a feasibility study and do the groundwork for the project
•Sri Lanka will soon kick-start the process of setting up a solar power plant in eastern port town Trincomalee after discussions with India, which is partnering the Government in the initiative.
•“The next step would be to undertake a feasibility study and do the groundwork,” spokesman of the Ministry of Power and Renewable Energy Sulakshana Jayawardena told The Hindu on Wednesday.
•In April this year, the governments of Sri Lanka and India signed a Memorandum of Understanding, for cooperation in a host of development projects including the setting up of a Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) plant in suburban Colombo and a solar power plant in Sampur, Trincomalee.
•“We have the required land to set up the 50 MW solar plant envisaged in the MoU. We have to now work out the process of executing the project, in consultation with India,” Mr. Jayawardena said.
NTPC venture
•Sri Lanka had initially planned to set up a coal power plant in Sampur, through an international joint venture with India’s National Thermal Power Corporation. However, in September 2016 the Power Ministry scrapped the project citing environmental concerns.
•A month later, Prime Minister Narendra Modi met President Maithripala Sirisena in Goa, on the side-lines of the BRICS summit, where he flagged the possibility of New Delhi partnering Colombo in LNG and green energy projects.
•Sampur, where the solar plant is set to come up, is located in the strategically important port town of Trincomalee, on the north-eastern coast of the island. India and Sri Lanka have agreed to jointly operate a world war-era oil storage facility in the town, with the aim of developing it into a regional petroleum hub.
•The proposed solar power plant is in line with Soorya Bala Sangramaya (Battle for Solar Energy), an initiative that President Sirisena launched last year to add 220 MW of solar power to Sri Lanka’s energy grid by 2020. Currently, the island relies heavily on thermal sources that meet over 70 per cent of the country’s energy needs.

Promises in the Rose Garden

In a well-calibrated programme, Prime Minister Modi’s U.S. visit reaffirmed an indispensable partnership
•Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s much anticipated visit to Washington has come and gone. The chemistry was positive, and the physics (that is, the structural content and equilibrium) and the geometry (the angles and alignments along which the visit was pitched) well-calibrated. Mr. Modi’s fifth visit to the U.S. as Prime Minister concluded on a note of reassuring affirmation about relations between the world’s most important and largest democracies.
•President Donald Trump is a man of many moods and ‘humours’, a personification of impulse and impetuousness. The fact that the two leaders struck a good rapport, marked by mutual “respect and friendship”, despite the difference in their personalities, augurs well.
•In Mr. Trump’s own words, he had “tremendous success” in his meeting with Mr. Modi. Progress in bilateral relations over the last few years received the imprimatur of endorsement of the new President, and there were no missed heartbeats or gut-wrenching moments.
Arc of cooperation
•Besides claiming that both leaders were “world leaders in social media”, Mr. Trump’s Rose Garden statement spoke of both countries working together to create jobs and grow their economies (a foundational ideology for Mr. Trump which is not antithetical to priorities in Mr. Modi’s India) and ensuring a trading relationship that is fair and reciprocal. Mr. Trump announced that the U.S. will sign major contracts with India for the sale of natural gas, although he was trying “to get the price up a little bit”.
•On the security front, he expressed the joint determination of both countries to destroy “radical Islamic terrorism” as also to enhance military cooperation, with mention of the forthcoming ‘Malabar’ naval exercise involving the Indian, American and Japanese navies. He had a good word for Indian efforts to help Afghanistan and for India’s joining in sanctions against the North Korean regime — a regime that was causing “tremendous problems” and which had to be dealt with, “and probably dealt with rapidly”. This last aside, where Mr. Trump departed from prepared remarks, should get East Asia analysts and experts ready with their dissection tools to understand what looked like a clenched warning to Pyongyang.
•Mr. Modi, as an astute student of human psychology, was effusive in both body language (the three “diplohugs” directed towards what some call a “germophobic” President!) and words of warm appreciation for the First Lady and Mr. Trump. He invited Ivanka Trump to India, and she has accepted. His key words were “mutual trust” and “convergence” to describe his meeting with Mr. Trump, as he referred to the “common priorities”, and the “robust strategic partnership” that unites the two countries. He called the U.S. the “primary partner” for India’s transformation, stressing convergence between his vision for a new India and Mr. Trump’s vision of “making America great again”.
•Striking a high note, Mr. Modi spoke of Mr. Trump’s successful experience in the business world as lending “an aggressive and forward-looking agenda to our relations”. For his part, he said, he would remain “a driven, determined and decisive partner” of the U.S. The two leaders have set aside the “hesitations of history”, it would seem.
Close watch on Afghanistan
•Interestingly, on Afghanistan, Mr. Modi spoke of maintaining “close consultation and communication with the U.S. to enhance coordination between our two nations”, and terrorism in that country being “one of our common concerns”. This space must be watched to determine the contours of future cooperation. So too, the reference to the increasing consultations on West Asia in the joint statement, “in accord with India’s Think West policy” flags an issue of important ramifications, requiring more elaboration. The triangulations involving Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Iran are extremely complex today, and common India-U.S. perspectives (apart from eradicating Islamic radicalism) await more specific identification.
•The delineation of shared interests as “democratic stalwarts” and “responsible stewards” in the joint statement (“Prosperity Through Partnership”) on the Indo-Pacific (a formulation more India-inclusive than earlier ones) is to be noted. There is clear messaging to China in the call for respecting sovereignty and international law, with a distinct echo of the Indian position on China’s Belt and Road Initiative, when the statement called for “bolstering regional economic connectivity through the transparent development of infrastructure and the use of responsible debt financing practices, while ensuring respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity, the rule of law, and the environment”. That is a good screen grab of Indian concerns about China’s strategic overreach and suggests that the U.S. has no fundamental disagreement with this assessment.
•The defence and security partnership (of interest was the Foreign Secretary’s designation of “defence, security and connectivity” as key concerns), and counter-terrorism remain central to the relationship. The naming of Hizbul Mujahideen’s Syed Salahuddin by the U.S. State Department as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist as well as the launch of a new consultative mechanism on domestic and international terrorist listing proposals was a definite boost. The call on Pakistan to “expeditiously bring to justice the perpetrators” of the Mumbai and Pathankot terror attacks was reiterated. The reference to these attacks being perpetrated by Pakistan-based groups is to be noted. The expansion of intelligence-sharing and operational-level counterterrorism cooperation signals greater mutual confidence about working to eliminate terrorist threats. It remains to be seen whether the affirmation of U.S. support for a UN Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism will translate into a more coordinated India-U.S. approach.
•Deepening security and defence cooperation between India and the U.S. has marked this bilateral relationship for some years now. Interoperability, given the growing proportion of U.S.-bought equipment with the Indian armed forces, is a concrete possibility. The offer of sale of Sea Guardian Unmanned Aerial Systems to India was confirmed and this will provide for an enhancement of Indian capabilities in maritime defence and deterrence. India’s offer of support for U.S. observer status in the Indian Ocean Naval Symposium was flagged. The organisation has a membership of 22, including Iran and four observers, including China and Japan. Levels of activity have not been high in recent years.
Unfinished agenda
•Digital partnership was a concept projected in the briefing by the Foreign Secretary and found mention in Mr. Modi’s remarks and the joint statement. This is an omnibus term that can encompass many meanings — including innovation, technology flows, as well as the give and take of knowledge in the cyber sector (and its human-resource, professional component). The H-1B visa issue did not come up for specific mention in these public statements, but obviously remains on the agenda.
•Finding creative ways to enhance bilateral trade and increased market access including in agriculture (a particular U.S. concern) and information technology (of Indian interest), as mentioned in the joint statement, will be monitored carefully. The energy partnership has survived the visit, contrary to apprehensions, and besides U.S. natural gas (read shale), there was mention of clean coal and renewable resources and technologies for India – in order to “promote universal access to affordable and reliable energy”.
•Civil nuclear energy cooperation merited a brief mention, but just that. The resolve to sealing the contractual agreements between the financially stressed Westinghouse Electric Company and the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd. and related project financing over the next few months offers hope without the promise of finality. On another front, U.S. support for India’s permanent membership of the UN Security Council, Indian membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group, the Wassenaar Arrangement, and the Australia Group has been reiterated.
•There is a final footnote to the visit. And it involves President Abraham Lincoln. There are some in India who regard Mr. Modi as similar to the 16th U.S. President, as unusual as this may seem. The fact that Mr. Modi chose to give Mr. Trump a commemorative stamp issued by India in 1965 to mark the 100th anniversary of the death of Abraham Lincoln should offer interesting and intriguing insights about our Prime Minister.

Fighting an old battle

The disabled have been affected by the high GST rates on essential aids and appliances
•There are just a few days left. On June 30, at the midnight hour, when the new Goods and Services Tax (GST) regime kicks in, almost all aids and appliances that disabled people use such as a wheelchair, or a Braille typewriter or a hearing aid will become at least 5% more expensive. And, if the confusion over Chapter 90:9 in the GST Bill is not resolved between now and then, then some orthopaedic appliances such as crutches and surgical belts will get 12% more expensive.
Making matters worse
•Even small cars in India are treated as some type of a luxury item; the GST Council has levied a whopping 18% tax. It is another matter that in the absence of accessible buses or even taxis, modified cars specially adapted for the physically disabled are not really a luxury item but an absolute necessity.
•Since 2006, these items were not taxed! So, even 5% GST, let alone 12% or 18%, will make life that much more difficult for persons with disabilities. It is already extremely difficult for the average disabled person in India with accessibility issues and additional costs of living. Now with the GST, things of daily use/necessity which are already beyond their reach, will become even more expensive.
•It is not clear why the GST Council is taxing disabled citizens of India. While items such as kajal are being taxed at 0% and rough precious and semi-precious stones are being taxed at a mere 0.25%, most disability goods are being charged at 5% — the same as kites ( patang ) and agarbattis and cashew nuts. This decision of the Council blatantly violates the provisions of the newly passed Rights of Persons with Disabilities (RPWD) Act, 2016.
•Chapter 8 – Duties and Responsibilities of Appropriate Governments of the RPWD Act clearly states: “The appropriate Government shall develop schemes programmes to promote the personal mobility of persons with disabilities at affordable cost to provide for,— (a) incentives and concessions; (b) retrofitting of vehicles; and (c) personal mobility assistance.”
Precedent for zero tax
•It has been six months since we passed the new disability law. By now, the Ministry of Finance and the Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities should have at least set up a committee or a working group to seriously look into the mandate imposed by Chapter 8, i.e. to develop incentive schemes and concessional programmes to ensure that disability aids and appliances are made available at an affordable cost. Instead, the Finance Ministry has decided to ruthlessly tax its disabled citizens! In the first round, Braille typewriters were taxed at 18% GST and Braille watches at 12% GST. It is only after the disability sector was up in arms that these two and some other items have been brought down to 5% GST. This happened in the June 11 meeting of the GST Council. When we found out a few days later, we could have proclaimed victory and had a celebration, but we chose not to. We are very clearly demanding a complete rollback. We are asking the government for a zero-tax regime as was the case in the last decade, from 2006 onwards.
•I have the misfortune of working on this issue for the second time. It is like going back in a time capsule to the 1990s when wheelchairs were taxed at 30% and crutches at 25%! I remember taking up this issue, for the first time, in 2001 when Yashwant Sinha was India’s Finance Minister. At the meeting, he heard us out patiently and decided not to do anything. A few years later, when Jaswant Singh became the Finance Minister, he brought down the taxes to a 5% slab. Again, in 2006, the then Finance Minister, P. Chidambaram, brought down the tax from 5% to 0%. It has been like this for the last 10 years. Now it seems that all that hard work will once again go down the drain and we will be back to the 2002-2004 position.
Investing in the disabled
•India must invest in its disabled population — there are 70 million of us. If the disabled are able to step out of their homes; go to schools and colleges; get jobs on merit; and go to their workplaces and perform, they will obviously contribute to the nation’s growth and its economic progress. Good quality and affordable aids and appliances are an essential prerequisite to this dream story of the disability sector thought leaders like me.

Current Affairs June 29, 2017

1) India’s communication satellite GSAT-17 successfully launched

•India’s latest communication satellite GSAT-17 has been successfully launched from Kourou in French Guiana. GSAT-17 with a lift-off mass of about 3,477 kg carries payloads in Normal C-band, Extended C-band and S-band to provide various communication services.

•The Satellite also carries equipment for meteorological data relay and satellite-based search and rescue services being provided by earlier INSAT satellites. This was third satellite launch by ISRO this month, the other two being first developmental flight of GSLV MkIII and PSLV C-38 missions launched from Sriharikota spaceport in Andhra Pradesh.

2) 6th Joint Trade Committee Meeting between India and Myanmar held in New Delhi

•The 6th India – Myanmar Joint Trade Committee (JTC) Meeting co-chaired by Smt. Nirmala Sitharaman, Minister of Commerce & Industry from India and Dr. Than Myint, Union Commerce Minister from Myanmar was held in New Delhi.

•The Joint Trade Committee plays a key role in facilitating issues related to the enhancement of the bilateral economic partnership between the two countries. Myanmar shares a long land border of over 1600 Kms with India as well as a maritime boundary in the Bay of Bengal.

3) India’s first blood bank for Cattle to come up in Odisha

•Odisha is all set to become the first state in the country to have a blood bank for the cattle. Acc. to the Vice-chancellor of the Odisha University of Agriculture and Technology (OUAT) Surendra Nath Pasupalak, it is the first of its kind blood bank established on the premises of OUAT at an estimated cost of Rs. 3.25 crore.

•Mr. Pasupalak said a proposal in this regard was earlier submitted to the (NADP). After approval from the National Agriculture Development Programme (NADP), the OUAT is now awaiting approval from the state government. The project will have a 60:40 sharing between the Centre and the state government.

•The cattle farmers will provide blood voluntarily. The blood bank will also go and collect blood from centers. This will prevent the death of cattle during deliveries and other ailments.

4) Election Commission joins hands with Facebook to Launch First Time Nationwide “Voter Registration Reminder”

•The Election Commission of India (ECI) has joined hands with Facebook to launch nationwide voter registration reminder aimed at reminding eligible Indian voters to register themselves on the electoral rolls.

•As a part of the initiative, Facebook will activate a unique ‘Register Now’ button reminding all the eligible Indian users to enroll themselves as voters. The reminder will be made available for four days beginning July 1. When the users click the button, they will be redirected to National Voters’ Services Portal, where they can register themselves as voters.

5) Kaushik Basu takes over as president of International Economic Association

•Former chief economic advisor Kaushik Basu has taken over as president of the International Economic Association (IEA). Basu’s three-year term started from June 23.

•Mr. Basu has also served as senior vice-president and chief economist at the World Bank from 2012 to 2016 and as the chief economic adviser to the Government of India from 2009 to 2012. He is currently the C. Marks Professor of International Studies at Cornell.

6) Sharjah named ‘World Book Capital 2019’ by UNESCO

•Sharjah, a city in the United Arab Emirates was named ‘World Book Capital for the year’ 2019 by the Director-General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, on the recommendation of the Advisory Committee which met at the Headquarters of the International Federation of Library Associations (IFLA) at La Haye.

•The city was selected because of the very innovative, comprehensive and inclusive nature of the application, with a community-focused activity program containing creative proposals to engage the very large migrant population. The program runs with a slogan ‘Read – you are in Sharjah’. It focuses on six themes: inclusivity, reading, heritage, outreach, publishing and children.

Bank of Baroda Interview & GD Call Letter Out!


Bank of Baroda has released the Call Letter for Interview and Group Discussions and also activated the link of Application Reprint for the nine months Post Graduate Certificate in Banking and Finance (PGCBF) course in Baroda Manipal School of Banking. The Online written exam was held on 27th May 2017 in two shifts. The candidates who have appeared in BOB PGCBF (PO) Exam and cleared his/her written exam can download the call letter from the link provided below.

Important Dates:
Commencement of Call letter Download: 24th June 2017 
Closure of Call letter Download: 16th July 2017

SSC CGL 2017


SSC CGL 2017 is held for recruitment to government jobs in India. Get details on the syllabus, form, online application process, result and more.
Staff Selection Commission(SSC) conducts the Combined Graduate Level (CGL) Examination for recruitment to Group B and Group C posts in various ministries, government departments and offices across the country.


1. Nationality
A candidate must be one of the following:
(a) A citizen of India.
(b) A subject of Nepal or Bhutan.
(c) A Tibetan refugee who came over to India before 01/01/1962 with the intention of permanently settling in India.
(d) A person of Indian origin who has migrated from other countries (detailed list of countries available in official notification) with the intention of permanently settling in India.
Provided that a candidate belonging to categories (b), (c) or (d) above shall be a person in whose favour a certificate of eligibility has been issued by the the Indian government.

Educational Qualification
• For the post of Compiler: Bachelor’s degree from any recognized university with Economics/Statistics/Mathematics as compulsory or elective subject.
• For the post of Statistical Investigator Grade – II: Bachelor’s degree in any discipline from a recognized University with:
Atleast 60% in Mathematics at 12th Standard level OR Statistics as one of the subjects at degree level.
• For all other posts: Bachelor’s degree in any discipline from a recognized University or any other equivalent qualification.

Test Duration and Pattern (SSC CGL 2017)

Tier IV:
For the post of Assistant in CSS: Computer Proficiency Test with Word Processing, Spread Sheet and Generation of Slides modules.
The final merit list will be prepared on the basis of overall performance in Tier I, II and III. There will be no Sectional cut off.
Document verification will also be conducted as per provision of the notice of exam.

Selection Process
SSC CGL is a paper based test and consists of four successive stages:-
• Tier I – Objective type test
• Tier II – Objective type test
• Tier III – skill test/ interview depending on the post.
• Tier IV – Computer proficiency test depending on the post.
Note: For selection to certain posts there are certain set standards as well as a physical test. Refer official notification for details.

Various posts that one can apply for through SSC CGL are classified into Group B & Group C. The details are as follows:

How to Apply
Candidates can submit the application in online format only:
1) Online application – Submitting the application online contains two parts:
• Part I Registration – Here the candidate has to fill basic information and preference of posts.
• Part II Registration – Here the candidate has to fill payment details, upload photograph and scanned signature.
For online registration go to OR
(Detailed instructions for filling up online applications are available on the above mentioned website)
The application charge for male candidates is Rs. 100/- only. There is no application charge for female and SC / ST / Physically Handicapped candidates as well as Ex-Servicemen eligible for reservation.


Important Dates (2017)
Exam Date: Aug 1st to Aug 20th, 2017


Official Website

SSC CGL 2017 Recruitment Official Notification Out

Staff Selection Commission has officially released the SSC CGL 2017 Recruitment Notification. The SSC CGL Tier I exam will take place from 1st August 2017 to 20th August 2017 in different slots. The SSC had first given an advertisement in newspapers, now they have released the Official Notification on SSC Website. You can fill the online application form for SSC CGL 2017 through the direct link in a single click.