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Current Affairs - 15 August 2018

NATION

300 Army personnel move SC against prosecution
  • Over 300 Army officers moved the Supreme Court against what they called “persecution” by the court and civilian agencies, like the CBI, for doing their duty in the insurgency-hit areas of Jammu and Kashmir and the northeastern States.
  • The petition comes shortly after the court directed a CBI SIT to file chargesheets, in a time-bound manner, against Army officers involved in the Manipur extra-judicial killings, in which innocents were allegedly killed after being branded as insurgents. 
  • The petition, filed by Colonel Amit Kumar and several other officers, was mentioned by advocate Aishwarya Bhati before a Bench led by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, who scheduled the case for August 20.
  • According to the petition, an “extraordinary circumstance” was prevailing over armed forces personnel fighting in the insurgency-hit areas and the nation’s borders. They are plagued by doubts whether performing their duty to fight enemies would expose them to prosecution and land them in jail.


Human chain formed on Rajasthan border
  • A record 700-km-long human chain was formed in Rajasthan’s four border districts – Barmer, Jaisalmer, Bikaner and Sriganganagar – on Tuesday as a tribute to the martyrs on the eve of the Independence Day.
  • About 5 lakh people participated in the initiative by forming the chain along the roads parallel to the India-Pakistan border.
  • The event was organised by the State government as part of its ‘Shahadat Ko Salam’ (A salute to martyrdom) programme to pay homage to the soldiers who laid down their lives for the country. 
Mahadayi tribunal allows Karnataka to divert water
  • Karnataka has been allowed to divert 2.18 tmcft of water at the proposed Bhandura dam and 1.72 tmcft at the Kalasa dam for providing water to North Karnataka, according to a recommendation by the Mahadayi Water Tribunal (MWT). 
  • Goa has historically been opposed to such a diversion on the grounds that it needed this water for its own purposes as well maintaining ecological flow.
  • The three-member body, headed by Justice J.M. Panchal, submitted its report to Union Water Resources Minister Nitin Gadkari. The tribunal was constituted in 2010 to equitably allot Mahadayi water among Karnataka, Goa and Maharashtra.
  • The water sharing would have to be overseen by Central government agencies or a Mahadayi Water Management Authority, that according to the tribunal, could be framed on the lines of the recently constituted Cauvery Management Board.
  • It has stated that the demands by Goa, Maharashtra and Karnataka for future use of the Mahadayi waters weren’t “fully justified” as they were “…not based on adequate and consistent data/information..,” and weren’t based on “scientific” principles.
  • The tribunal recommendations ought to be adhered to until August 2048.
Green activist opposes water aerodrome project in Chilika
  • Green Nobel prize winner environmental activist Prafulla Samantara said his organisation Lok Shakti Abhiya will oppose the proposed water aerodrome project in Chilika lake at national and international forums.
  • He has already written to State Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik urging him to prevent the implementation of this aerodrome project 
  • According to Mr. Samantara, the Chilika lagoon is a unique brackish water body that is visited by lakhs of migratory birds. It also comes under the RAMSAR convention declaration on the natural wetlands of international importance and No project should be taken up in Chilika lake that can affect its biodiversity and have negative impact on the livelihood of thousands of families depending on it.
  • Last week, the proposed amphibian airport project in Chilika lake got in-principle nod from the Central government. Mr. Samantara said the project because of sound pollution will dissuade migratory birds from coming to Chilika. 
  • It will also affect the fish and other marine life in the lake, thereby affecting the livelihood of the fishermen.
1,575 sexually abused children are now in shelter homes: Centre to SC
  • The Centre told the Supreme Court that a survey of 9,589 child care institutions across the country found that 1,575 inmates suffered sexual abuse before they were rescued and placed in these homes.
  • The Centre had shared the survey conducted by Childline India Foundation with the States concerned, but nothing further happened.
  • The survey took two years from December 2015 till March 2017 and was submitted to the Union Social Justice Ministry.
  • There is a national social audit of child care homes being conducted by the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR). This audit would be completed by October 2018. 3,500 shelter homes for children across the country had already been audited.
  • SC said the audit should not be just about collecting statistics but an “active evaluation” of the conditions of the children in the homes. “Talk to the children. See if they are happy or unhappy,” Justice Gupta addressed the Centre.
  • The survey, which is part of the Centre’s affidavit submitted in the Supreme Court on Tuesday, shows that Childline India Foundation mapped 9,589 Child Care Institutions (CCIs) and found that the total number of children found to be in need of care and protection was 3,68,267. Of these, 1,98,449 were boys, 1,69,726 were girls and 92 transgenders.
CJI launches mobile apps for e-filing of cases
  • In a “giant leap” towards a litigant-friendly court system, Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra on Tuesday heralded the launch of a host of smartphone apps to help litigants, including convicts, from all parts of the country file cases and even make e-payments to courts.
Australia lifts ban on adoptions from India
  • Australia has lifted a ban on adoption of children from India, imposed eight years ago after a major trafficking scandal was exposed. The easing of restrictions follows protracted talks between the governments of the two countries for the past two years.
Launch of health scheme likely

  • The Ayushman Bharat-National Health Protection Scheme (AB-NHPS), likely to be launched on Wednesday, aims to provide a medical coverage of ₹5 lakh a family every year. The scheme, estimated to benefit more than 10 crore poor families, will be implemented on a pilot basis in select States. The nationwide roll-out will be in September-end.
  • A senior health official said the scheme would target poor, deprived rural families and identified occupational category of urban workers’ families.
  •  While Punjab, Kerala, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Delhi are yet to come on board, Odisha has refused to be part of the scheme. Currently, 22 States have preferred to run the scheme on a “trust model”. 
  • The Centre has allocated about ₹10,000 crore for the project, said to be the world’s largest government-funded healthcare insurance programme. 
Shaurya Chakra for Major Aditya, Aurangzeb
  • Major Aditya Kumar who fired on a stone-throwing mob and rifleman Aurangzeb who was abducted and killed by terrorists, both in Jammu and Kashmir, were selected for the Shaurya Chakra on the eve of Independence Day. Sepoy Vrahma Pal Singh was selected for the Kirti Chakra posthumously for his act of bravery in a counter-insurgency operation.
  • In addition, all six women officers, who completed a global circumnavigation trip on sailing vessel INSV Tarini early this year, have been selected for Nao Sena medals (Gallantry).
  • The President has approved 131 gallantry awards to armed forces personnel and members of paramilitary forces, which include one Kirti Chakra, 20 Shaurya Chakras, 96 Sena Medals (Gallantry), 11 Nao Sena Medals (Gallantry) and three Vayu Sena Medals (Gallantry).

WORLD

U.K. group slams Indian IT firms
  • A lobbying group, which pushes for greater curbs on Britain’s immigration regime, has accused multinational IT companies, “typically based in India”, of exploiting a “gaping” loophole in Britain’s immigration system, and has called for the system to be overhauled.
  • Migration Watch said a small number of multinational IT companies were exploiting a system intended to post senior executives to and from the U.K. to bring “thousands of migrant workers to fulfil contracts with private and public sector organisations”.
  • Though part of the Tier 2 visa category, intra-company transfers (ICTs) are not subject to a cap, and have over time represented an increasing share of the Tier 2 work visas, the lobby group said.
  • About 58,000 of 94,000 Tier 2 work permits issued in 2017 were via the ICT route, the group said. 
  • Last week, the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) published a report calling for the government to scrap immigration targets.
  • Trade body TechUK rejected the suggestion that international talent was cutting U.K. domestic skills. 
BUSINESS

Rupee breaches 70 against dollar for the first time
  • The rupee breached the psychological barrier of 70-to-a-dollar for the first time as the sharp fall in the Turkish lira continued to affect all emerging market currencies.
  • The rupee had a strong opening against the dollar at 69.85, but fell sharply to breach the 70-mark and went on to depreciate till 70.08, prompting the central bank to intervene.
  • The swift move past 69 happened due to Foreign Institutional Investor (FII) outflows and the need to hedge existing short dollar positions in the market, driven by global market sentiment rather than actual importer demand.
  • The rupee is the worst performer in Asia this year, depreciating 9% against the dollar. The current account gap is widening mainly due to a rise in international crude oil prices as India imports more than 80% of its requirements.
  • A depreciating rupee puts pressure on prices and hence makes it difficult for the Reserve Bank of India which wants inflation within a range.
Trade deficit widens to 5-year high
  • India’s trade deficit widened to a more than five-year high of $18.02 billion in July, the trade ministry said on Tuesday, driven largely by a surge in oil imports.
  • Though merchandise exports rose 14.3% year-on-year in July, the trade deficit widened as oil imports surged 57.4% to $12.35 billion.
  • In June, the trade deficit stood at $16.6 billion.
  • Merchandise exports last month rose to $25.77 billion from a year earlier, while imports rose 28.8% to $43.79 billion, the Ministry of Commerce and Industry said in a statement.
WPI inflation slows to 5.09% in July
  • Inflation at the wholesale level slowed to 5.09% in July largely due to a cooling down of food price inflation, according to official data released on Tuesday.
  • The Wholesale Price Index (WPI) based inflation was lower than June’s 5.77%.
  • The primary articles category saw growth slowing significantly to 1.73%, from 5.3% a month earlier. This was largely due to a 2.16% contraction in food prices, compared with June’s growth of 1.8%.
Centre proposes new bidding model for greenfield airports
  • The government on Tuesday proposed a new transaction structure for the bid process for greenfield airports, switching from a revenue share model to a fixed fee per passenger to be paid to the concessioning authority.
  • The Ministry for Civil Aviation is betting that the proposed change to the bid parameters would help ensure affordability of airport services for passengers as well as predictability of revenue for the winning bidder.
  • The Maximum Blended Aeronautical Yield (MBAY) in terms of rupee per passenger would be determined by the concessioning authority at the beginning of the tender period. This fee has been fixed at ₹400 per passenger for the financial year 2018-2019. The bids would however differ for each airport in line with the projected traffic, financial returns and risk profile.
  • The Ministry has also proposed that tariff regulator Airports Economic Regulatory Authority of India may formulate key performance indicators as part of the bid document and could be revised every five years. This would ensure quality of services by the concessionaire.