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Current Affairs - 22 August 2018


Dialogue with India a ‘must’ to resolve conflicts: Imran
  • Pakistan’s new Prime Minister Imran Khan has said Islamabad and Delhi “must dialogue” to resolve their conflicts, including that of Jammu and Kashmir. 
  • His comments came a day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi called for constructive engagement with Pakistan.
  • Mr. Khan also came out in support of his friend and Punjab Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu’s presence at his swearing-in ceremony in Islamabad .
  • “To move forward Pakistan and India must dialogue and resolve their conflicts incl Kashmir: The best way to alleviate poverty and uplift the people of the subcontinent is to resolve our differences through dialogue and start trading,” he said in a tweet.
SC scraps NOTA option for RS polls

  • The Supreme Court on Tuesday scrapped the use of NOTA (none of the above) option for Rajya Sabha polls, saying it would usher back the “Satan of defections.”
  • A three-judge Bench, led by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, held that the option is meant only for universal adult suffrage and direct elections and not elections held by the system of proportional representation by means of the single transferable vote as done in the Rajya Sabha.
  • " in the election to the Council of States, it would not only undermine the purity of democracy but also serve the Satan of defection and corruption,” Chief Justice Misra, who authored the judgment, observed.
  • The court pointed out that in the voting in Rajya Sabha elections, there is a whip and the elector is bound to obey the command of the party.
  • The court held that NOTA in an indirect election would not only run counter to the discipline expected from an elector under the Tenth Schedule but also be “counterproductive to the basic grammar of the law of disqualification... on the ground of defection.”
  • The Bench had reserved for judgment the petition filed in 2017 by Gujarat Congress whip Shailesh Manubhai Parmar to do away with the option in Rajya Sabha elections.
  • The petitioner had argued that the Election Commission cannot sanction the use of NOTA in Rajya Sabha elections by way of mere circulars, which have the effect of overriding the provisions of Article 80(4) — proportional representation by means of the single transferable vote, the provisions of Representation of People Act 1951 and the Conduct of Election Rules 1961.
SC plan to clean up politics
  • The Supreme Court proposed to make political parties accountable for criminalising politics by welcoming in “crooks” who may later win elections on party ticket and grab power.
  • The five-judge Constitution Bench, led by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, suggested it could direct the Election Commission to insist that parties get new members to declare in an affidavit their criminal antecedents and publish them so that the “entire country knows how many criminals there are in a party
  • The court said the EC could de-register a party or withdraw its symbol if it refused to comply.
Governor of Bihar moves to J&K
  • Bihar Governor Satya Pal Malik was appointed Governor of Jammu and Kashmir by the President. He replaces N.N. Vohra, who has occupied the J&K Raj Bhavan since 2008.
  • Lalji Tandon was appointed Bihar Governor in place of Mr. Malik.
  • The appointment of a person from a socialist background and not from the uniformed forces, reflects the Centre’s willingness to continue dialogue and engagement in the State, currently under Governor’s rule. 
UAE offers ₹700 crore in aid to flood-ravaged Kerala
  • The UAE government has promised ₹700 crore assistance for Kerala’s post-flood reconstruction effort even as the State sought a ₹2,600 crore special package from the Centre to cope with the deluge that has left 228 dead and displaced over 14 lakh people.
  • The offer reflects the concern that Gulf nations have for Kerala and Malayalis, the Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said while thanking UAE President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan and the Crown Prince.
  • Meanwhile, the Centre has released ₹600 crore announced during the visits of Mr. Modi and Home Minister Rajnath Singh.
  • Accepting foreign aid to deal with the flood situation in Kerala might reverse a 15-year-old convention of the Indian government first adopted in the aftermath of the 2004 tsunami.
  • The Ministry of External Affairs has however not responded to enunciate a clear official line for the situation in Kerala even as countries like the Maldives and Saudi Arabia have also pledged help.
Kerala flood lesson for Assam: experts
  • ‘Flood-experienced’ Assam can learn a lesson from the Kerala deluge to avoid large-scale disaster, say water resources and ecology experts in the Northeast.
  • The experts have found a similar pattern to recurrent floods in Assam – up to four times a year between April and October – and Kerala’s worst flood in 100 years that has claimed 357 lives so far.
  • The most worrying similarity is a network of dams in the “control of other States” surrounding Kerala and Assam.
  • “We have had Kerala-like floods albeit on a smaller scale because of hydropower projects in neighbouring States and in adjoining Bhutan. Assam has been rain-deficient by 30% this year, but Golaghat district experienced flash flood due to the release of excess water by the Doyang dam in Nagaland,” Partha Jyoti Das, a water resources specialist, told.
  • Similar was the case in Assam’s Lakhimpur district last year because of the Ranganadi dam in Arunachal Pradesh while the Kurichu dam in Bhutan has often caused flooding in western Assam.
  • The second lesson that Assam needs to learn from Kerala is the effect of rampant deforestation, mining, and quarrying. “Kerala has allowed settlement on elephant corridors such as Thirunelli-Kadrakote and Kottiyoor-Periya, leading to felling. The consequence has been killer landslides on an unprecedented scale,” Parimal C. Bhattacharjee, retired Gauhati University professor and environmentalist, said.
  • "Kerala is reaping the consequences of neglecting, like other Western Ghats States, the recommendations of the Gadgil and Kasturirangan panels against hydro-power projects in ecologically sensitive zones,” Mr. Das said.
  • Experts said micro-climate controlled by land use was the primary reason behind the catastrophe in Kerala though climate change was the overriding factor.
Canine disease kills eight jackals in Assam zoo
  • At least eight jackals have died at the Assam zoo here due to a virus associated with canines. The zoo had 18 jackals until two weeks ago.
  • The zoo’s divisional forest officer Tejas Mariswamy said canine distemper virus (CDV) is suspected to be the prime cause behind the death of the jackals. 
  • “CDV is common in pet dogs and cats. The virus does not affect humans but they may be carriers, and we get many visitors every day,” Mr. Mariswamy said.
Karnataka says ‘no’ to Kasturirangan report
  • Karnataka has told the Centre, two days before the deadline to submit recommendations on the demarcation of the ecologically-sensitive areas (ESAs), that it disagrees with the K. Kasturirangan-led panel report. 
  • The panel had suggested declaring 1,576 villages along the Western Ghats as ESA, which would heighten conservation measures and place restrictions on certain construction activities.
Centre releases ₹600 cr., 89,540 tonnes of grains for Kerala
  • Central assistance of ₹600 crore was released to the Kerala government.
  • The National Crisis Management Committee, chaired by Cabinet Secretary P.K Sinha, was informed by the Kerala government that while the situation was improving in the State.
  • The Centre has also approved 89, 540 tonnes of additional grains for Kerala. It has also started sending 80 tonnes of pulses (dals) every day to the State. This is in addition to the 100 MT of pulses supplied earlier.
  • “The Centre, under the National Food Security Act, already provides Kerala 1.18 lakh tonnes of foodgrains, which we shall continue giving. In addition to it, we have decided to provide 89,540 tonnes of foodgrains to extend the coverage to entire State,” Union Food Minister Ram Vilas Paswan said.
  • Under the National food security Act, 52.3% of the rural population and 39.5% of the urban population receive subsidised foodgrains — wheat is sold at ₹2 per kg and rice at ₹3 per kg. With the additional foodgrains, the coverage will be 100%.
ILO report flags wage inequality in India

  • Real average daily wages in India almost doubled in the first two decades after economic reforms, but low pay and wage inequality remains a serious challenge to inclusive growth, the International Labour Organization warned in its India Wage Report.
  • The ILO has called for stronger implementation of minimum wage laws and strengthening of the frameworks for collective bargaining by workers. 
  • Overall, in 2009-10, a third of all wage workers were paid less than the national minimum wage, which is merely indicative and not legally binding. That includes 41% of all casual workers and 15% of salaried workers.
  • In 2011-12, the average wage in India was about ₹247 rupees a day, almost double the 1993-94 figure of ₹128. However, average labour productivity (as measured by GDP per worker) increased more rapidly than real average wages. Thus, India’s labour share — or the proportion of national income which goes into labour compensation, as opposed to capital or landowners, has declined.
  • The rise in average wages was more rapid in rural areas, and for casual workers.
  • The average wage of casual workers — who make 62% of the earning population — was only ₹143 a day.
  • Daily wages in urban areas (₹384) also remain more than twice as high as those in rural areas (₹175), the report said.
  • he gender wage gap decreased from 48% in 1993-94 to 34% in 2011-12, but still remains high by international standards. And of all worker groups, the average wages of casual rural female workers was the lowest, at just ₹104 a day.

‘Opening up trade with India a priority for the U.S.’
  • Opening up trade with India is a key priority of the Trump administration, a senior official of the U.S. State Department has said. 
  • Briefing reporters on the administration’s Asia-Pacific policy, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asian Affairs Alice G. Wells — the highest-ranking official for the region — also welcomed Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan’s statement in support of peace in South Asia.
  • Ms. Wells will be participating in the Indian Ocean Conference in Vietnam’s capital Hanoi on August 27-28, organised by think tank India Foundation.
  • Delegates from 43 countries, including China, India, Singapore, Australia and Vietnam, are scheduled to participate in the event.
  • “With respect to Indo-American cooperation, we see trade with India and opening up trade with India as a key strategic objective for this administration,” the official said, pointing out that bilateral trade is now at about $126 billion, an increase of more than $10 billion from last year.
  • “We’ve seen critical purchases by Indian firms in the aviation, commercial aviation sector; energy sector; and obviously the defence sector,” she said. The defence contracts from India for U.S firms now total $18 billion.

Centre moots overseas UDAN
  • The Ministry of Civil Aviation has prepared a draft scheme document for “UDAN International” and invited comments from stakeholders till September 4.
  • The scheme is designed for State governments that are keen to promote air connectivity on international routes identified by them and for which they are willing to provide subsidy to airlines.
  • The airlines will bid on the percentage of flight capacity for which they require financial assistance, provided that the figure doesn’t exceed 60% of the flight capacity. The entity that quotes the lowest amount will be awarded subsidy for a particular route.
  • However, the government will grant financial aid only for the actual number of passenger seats that are unsold.
  • The key difference between this scheme and the regional connectivity scheme (RCS) for domestic routes is that there is no capping of fares. Under RCS, fares are capped at ₹2,500 for one hour of flight on a fixed wing aircraft in order to make air travel affordable, which was why the scheme was called Ude Desh Ka Aam Nagrik (UDAN).
  • So far, Assam has proposed to offer ₹100 crore per year for flights to Kathmandu, Dhaka, Singapore, Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur and Yangon. Andhra Pradesh has also expressed its keenness to the Civil Aviation Ministry to encourage tourism.

Asian Games
  • Saurabh Chaudhary, all of 16, became only the fifth Indian shooter to claim a gold in the Asian Games history, beating a field of multiple World and Olympic champions in the 10m air pistol finals here.
  • Seasoned Sanjeev Rajput then made the country proud, winning silver in the 50m rifle 3 positions.
  • Another Indian making his international debut, 29-year-old Abhishek Verma, shot 219.3 to secure bronze.
  • Divya Kakran finished third yet again, making short work of Chen Wenling for a 10-0 technical superiority victory and bronze in the 68kg.
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