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Current Affairs - 29 August 2018

NATION

SC questions second chance for those left out of NRC
  • The Supreme Court asked the Centre whether it was giving people, among the 40 lakh excluded from the draft National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam, a “second chance” to gain citizenship by allowing them to produce fresh documents to prove their family roots in India.
  • The court was referring to the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) proposed by the government, which allows a claimant for Indian citizenship to “change his legacy” by submitting additional documents at the ‘claims and objections’ stage. 
  • A Bench of Justices Ranjan Gogoi and Rohinton Nariman on Tuesday said allowing a claimant to change his legacy would amount to “tinkering with the family tree” and re-doing the verification process.
  • The court also deferred the receipt of claims and objections to a later date. This stage was to start on August 30 and continue till October 28.
Five arrested for ‘Maoist links’ in nationwide raids

  • In an early morning, co-ordinated crackdown across six States, the Pune police on Tuesday raided the homes of several activists and arrested Vernon Gonsalves, Arun Ferreira, civil liberties activist Gautam Navlakha, trade union activist Sudha Bharadwaj and Telugu poet Varavara Rao for alleged links to the Communist Party of India-Maoist.
  • The raids and arrests sparked outrage and protests from Opposition leaders as well as human rights and civil liberties activists.
  • CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury termed the arrests “a brazen attack on democratic rights and liberties,” while Amnesty International India and Oxfam India, in a joint statement, said the crackdown was disturbing and threatened core human rights values.
  • Author Arundhati Roy said the arrests were “a dangerous sign of a government that fears it is losing its mandate and is falling into panic.”
  • Joint Commissioner of Police (Law and Order) Shivaji Bodkhe neither confirmed nor denied reports about the activists allegedly plotting a ‘Rajiv Gandhi style’ assassination attempt on Prime Minister Narendra Modi, saying that he could not comment at this stage.
Punjab House passes Bills to curb sacrilege
  • The Punjab Assembly on Tuesday unanimously passed Bills for an amendment to the Indian Penal Code and the Code of Criminal Procedure to make desecration of all religious texts punishable with life imprisonment. 
  • The IPC (Punjab Amendment) Bill, 2018, has inserted Section 295AA to provide that “whoever causes injury, damage or sacrilege to Sri Guru Granth Sahib, Srimad Bhagavad Gita, the Holy Quran and the Holy Bible with the intention to hurt the religious feelings of the people shall be punished with imprisonment for life.”
  • It also states, “In the IPC, 1860, in its application to the State of Punjab, in Section 295, for the words “two years,” the words “10 years” shall be substituted.
25 gates of Hirakud dam reservoir opened
  • The Hirakud dam authorities opened as many as 25 gates of the reservoir on Tuesday evening due to heavy rain in the upper catchment area of the Mahanadi river and release of water from certain projects in neighbouring Chhattisgarh. 
  • This may create a flood-like situation in as many as 11 districts under the Mahanadi river system over the next two days.
  • The districts that have been issued flood alerts are Sambalpur, Subarnapur, Boudh, Nayagarh, Angul, Cuttack, Puri, Jagatsinghpur, Kendrapara, Khurda and Jajpur.
Alibaba Cloud signs MoU with A.P.
  • Alibaba Cloud India (ACI) signed an MoU with the A.P-Economic Development Board (AP-EDB) for leveraging the Chinese company’s ET (Extreme Tech) City Brain solutions in diverse sectors like real-time governance, smart city and integrated traffic management, small and medium enterprises and skill upgrading.
U.S. scientists to study impact of Kerala flood
  • A team of scientists from the U.S.-based Geotechnical Extreme Events Reconnaisance (GEER) Association will arrive here on September 3 to study the impact of the torrential rain that wreaked havoc in Kerala.
  • The delegation will be led by Thomas Oommen, Associate Professor, Michigan Technological University and Richard Coffman, Associate Professor, University of Arkansas.
  • The week-long study is sponsored by the U.S. National Science Foundation.
Manned space mission before 75th I-Day: ISRO chief
  • If everything goes according to plan, in 40 months, three Indians will be launched into space by an Indian rocket. This is the aim of India’s ambitious manned spaceflight mission, Gaganyaan, the contours of which were outlined by Dr. K. Sivan, Chairman of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) on Tuesday.
  • “We will do it before the 75th Independence Day. Most of the technologies are already developed,” Dr. Sivan told a press conference.
  • He stated that ISRO began work on the manned mission in 2004 and some of these technologies have been demonstrated successfully through various tests — Space Capsule Recovery Experiment, Crew module Atmospheric Re-entry Experiment and Pad Abort Test.
  • Two unmanned missions will be undertaken prior to sending humans on the first manned flight within 30 months and manned mission in 40 months.
  • “The mission will aim to send a three-person crew to space for a period of 5-7 days,” Dr. Sivan said.
  • The total programme is expected to cost less than ₹10,000 crore and will result in significant spin-offs in multiple dimensions, including technology spin-offs in the social sector.
Choppers must go, says Maldives
  • There has been no movement on the issue of Indian helicopters in the Maldives, said official sources, denying recent reports that the government of President Abdullah Yameen had softened its stand and allowed the helicopters and their crews to stay on.
  • “The stories are simply not true,” said a senior diplomatic source from Male.
  • The Maldivian government’s three-month-old demand, that India remove two helicopters and about 28 Naval personnel and pilots, whose visas expired in June, has not been renewed by the Yameen government, he added.
  • India gifted the helicopters to the Maldives in 2013 for coast guard surveillance as well as medical evacuations in the strategically located islands, and withdrawing them will be seen as a blow to India’s presence there. 
Govt. scraps scientific panels, forms council
  • The government has scrapped two Scientific Advisory Committees (SAC) for the Prime Minister and the Cabinet, and replaced them with a nine member, Prime Minister’s Science, Technology and Innovation Advisory Council (PM-STIAC).
  • Unlike in the earlier SACs, secretaries of various scientific Ministries such as education, environment and health would be ‘special invitees’ to the council meetings. 
  • The PM-STIAC will be chaired by the government’s Principal Scientific Advisor, Dr K. Vijay Raghavan.
  • While industry representatives were present in greater numbers in the earlier SACs, a single, industry member, particularly given the government’s call to industry to increase jobs via entrepreneurship, is not an anomaly, Dr Vijay Raghavan said.
  • The newly constituted body is expected to act as a high level advisory body to several ministries and execute mission-oriented programmes. 

WORLD

U.S. hopeful of reaching agreement with Canada on a new NAFTA
  • The United States hopes to strike a quick bargain with Canada after reaching an agreement with Mexico this week on continent-wide trade, U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said.
  • Canada’s Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland was due in Washington to begin talks on Tuesday, one day after U.S. President Donald Trump suggested he could cut Ottawa out of any final deal if disagreements persist in the year-long efforts to rewrite the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). 
  • “The U.S. market and Canadian markets are very intertwined. It’s important for them to get this deal and it’s important for us to get this deal.” Washington and Mexico City announced that they had smoothed over disagreements, agreeing to a regular review process to reauthorise the trade deal and higher wages for certain auto workers, among other matters.
  • Canada “will only sign a new NAFTA that is good for Canada”, a spokesman for Ms. Freeland said.
UN has no jurisdiction on Iran sanctions: U.S.
  • The U.S. told UN judges  that they had no jurisdiction to rule on Tehran’s demand for them to order the suspension of sanctions against Iran.
  • Iran has argued that U.S. President Donald Trump breached a 1955 treaty with his decision to reimpose the sanctions after withdrawing from a multilateral nuclear accord.
  • But U.S. State Department lawyer Jennifer Newstead argued that the U.S. had the right to protect its national security and other interests. The treaty “cannot therefore provide a basis for this court’s jurisdiction” in the case, she said.
  • Iran’s lawyers said the sanctions were threatening the welfare of its citizens and disrupting business deals.
BUSINESS

Berkshire Hathaway purchases stake in Patym
  • Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc. has acquired a stake in one of India’s biggest digital payments firm Paytm.
  • According to sources, Berkshire Hathaway has bought 3-4% stake in Paytm for about $300-$350 million (or about ₹2,500 crore).
  • In a statement, One97 Communications, which owns the Paytm brand, said that the U.S.-based Berkshire Hathaway would have Todd Combs, investment manager at Berkshire Hathaway, on the company board.
  • Berkshire Hathaway joins Japanese giant SoftBank and China’s Alibaba Group, Ant Financial and SAIF Partners as key shareholders in Paytm.
  • Paytm founder and CEO Vijay Shekhar Sharma said Berkshire’s experience in financial services, and long-term investment horizon, will be a huge advantage in Paytm’s goal of bringing 500 million Indians into the mainstream economy through financial inclusion.
  • The investment comes ahead of the introduction of payments services by WhatsApp in India.
SPORTS

ASIAN GAMES
  •  PV Sindhu lost to Tai Tzu Ying and secured India’s first ever Asian Games badminton silver. 
  • Saina Nehwal, on the other hand, won her bronze medal match. 
  • India also won a silver in mixed team 4x400m relay through Muhammed Anas, M.R. Poovamma, Hima Das and Arokia Rajiv, finishing behind Bahrain.
  • In Athletics, India's Manjit Singh and Jinson Johnson bagged Gold and Silver respectively in the Men's 800m.
  • India bagged two medals in kurash, a form of wrestling indigenous to central Asia and making its debut in the Games, with Pincky Balhara and Malaprabha Yallappa Jadhav winning the silver and bronze respectively in the women’s 52kg category.

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