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Current Affairs : 09 - 10 September 2018

NATION

Maneka Gandhi bypassed; nutrition norms cleared


  • The NITI Aayog has approved the supplementary nutrition guidelines, prepared by the Ministry for Women and Child Development, bypassing Minister for Women and Child Development Maneka Gandhi following intervention by the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), according to a person familiar with the development.
  • The disagreement primarily centred around the approaches to food procured as take-home rations and the hot cooked meals served to 10 crore beneficiaries at 14 lakh anganwadis under the Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS).
  • While Ms. Gandhi recommended that take-home rations be procured either from self-help groups (SHGs) that have adequate manufacturing facilities or from government or private undertakings, the officials had favoured sourcing food items prepared with locally available ingredients, solely from SHGs.
  • The Minister’s position was also at odds over hot meals — she instead wanted ready-to-eat mixes in packaged form to be served to beneficiaries.
  • In June, R.K. Shrivastava, Secretary, Women and Child Development, wrote to the PMO about the delay in deciding on the norms and sought its intervention to expedite a decision that would back the officials’ position. The PMO then suggested that the matter be processed through the Cabinet Secretariat and the NITI Aayog. Subsequently, NITI Aayog Vice-Chairman Rajiv Kumar approved the guidelines on August 16.
T.N. recommends release of all seven Rajiv case convicts
  • A meeting of the Tamil Nadu Cabinet, chaired by Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami, recommended to Governor Banwarilal Purohit that all seven life convicts in the former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi assassination case be released under Article 161 of the Constitution.
  • The decision followed the Supreme Court’s observation last week that the Governor shall be at liberty to decide on the remission application of Perarivalan, one of the convicts, “as deemed fit.” 
  • Article 161 empowers the Governor to grant pardons and to suspend, remit or commute sentences of any person convicted of any offence against any law relating to a matter to which the executive power of the State extends.
  • To a question on the contention that the State government could not decide on a case investigated by a Central government agency, the Minister said, “Whatever it may be, law is only interpreted by the authority concerned — the Supreme Court, the highest in hierarchy. The Supreme Court’s direction is clear.”
  • Asked about the duties of the State government and those of the Governor on such issues, Minister Mr. Jayakumar said: “Governor represents the State.. He is the Executive [head] for the State. Whatever decision is taken by the government, it will be implemented, executed and issued by the Governor.”
  • On the opposition in some quarters to the decision to recommend the release of persons convicted in the assassination of a former Prime Minister, Mr. Jayakumar said: “See, the CBI undertook the investigation. That is past. What is present that is important.”
‘25% of all accidental deaths in India are weather-related’
  • Weather-related deaths are on the rise globally and figures in India stand at a staggering 25%, noted a study conducted across the country from 2001-2014 by research-based organisation Population Council.
  • Titled ‘Extreme Weather Event-Induced Deaths in India 2001–2014: Trends and Differentials by Region, Sex and Age Group’, the study was published this August.
  • The burden of deaths was the highest in central India, and Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra and West Bengal were affected the most by extreme weather events.
  • The study added that about one-quarter of all accidental deaths due to unnatural causes resulted from extreme weather events — which is about five deaths per one million persons.
  • Most deaths reported were due to lightning (40%), followed by extreme precipitation (24%), heatwave (20%) and cold wave (15%).
  • The study also found that a higher number of males died due to extreme weather events than females across all years and regions in the country.
  • A higher proportion of individuals who were 60 years or older died due to cold (47%) and heat (42%) waves than those in the younger age groups. In fact, four-fifths of the deaths due to cold and heatwaves were among individuals aged 44 years or older, said the study.
Sushma cancels visit to Syria
  • India on Saturday cancelled the scheduled visit of External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj to Syria, where she was expected to participate in the biggest industrial fair aimed at reconstruction of the war-ravaged country. 
  • The visit was in line with India’s stated objective of helping the country which has been a traditional friend of India.
  • “External Affairs Minister’s visit to Syria has been deferred due to the prevailing situation in that country. Fresh dates will be decided in mutual consultation with the Syrian side,” a spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs said.
  • Syria is carrying out the last major campaign against rebels and terrorists in Idlib where Russia and Iran are reportedly helping the government forces. 
  • Syrian sources said Ms. Swaraj was also scheduled to hold a meeting with President Bashar Al Assad and other Ministers of his government and interact with Indian and Syrian companies. 
  • “More than 40 Indian companies have reached Damascus and they are part of more than one thousand companies from different parts of the world that are participating in the trade fair,” a Syrian source said, emphasising that Syria is attracting funds for reconstruction as terrorism is practically over in most parts of the country.
  • Though officials refused to confirm, reports suggest that there are fears of attracting Western sanctions for companies that are willing to do business in Syria.
LEMOA already fully operational
  • The India-U.S. foundational agreement for mutual logistics support, the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA), has been fully operationalised over the past few months, official sources said.
  • Earlier this week, India concluded the third foundational agreement, Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA), which is meant for secure encrypted communications.
  • India had concluded the LEMOA in August 2016 in a culmination of a decade of negotiations between the two countries.
  • The pact gives both countries access to designated military facilities on either side for the purpose of refuelling and replenishment in primarily four areas — port calls, joint exercises, training and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.
  • The SOPs include designating the points of contact for the U.S. military to work with, and set up, a common account for payments.
  • The biggest beneficiary of the LEMOA is the Indian Navy, which interacts and exercises the most with foreign Navies.
  • The Navy has a fuel exchange agreement with the U.S. for fuel transfer on the high seas, which is set to expire in November.
  • Now fuel exchange gets subsumed into the LEMOA and does away with the need for a separate agreement, an officer said.
  • With COMCASA, India has signed three of the four foundational or enabling agreements with the U.S. meant to improve interoperability between the militaries and allow transfer of high-end military platforms.
  • The first one, the General Security Of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA), which is for information safety, was signed in 2002.
  • COMCASA, which was signed at the 2+2 dialogue on Thursday, is an India-specific version of the Communication and Information on Security Memorandum of Agreement (CISMOA).
  • The last one remaining is the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement for Geo-spatial Cooperation (BECA).
With LED TVs, U.P. prisoners can escape from boredom
  • The Uttar Pradesh government has decided to bring some ‘entertainment’ to prison cells in the State. Jail inmates will soon be able to watch ‘informative and useful’ programmes on LED screens right in their barracks.
  • As part of the plan, around 900 LED television sets will be installed across jails. The Prisons Department wants to provide one LED screen to each barrack. A budget of ₹3.5 crore has been allocated for this, Chandra Prakash, ADGP (Prisons), said.
  • U.P. faces an acute shortage of staff in overcrowded prisons — about 9,000 warders are needed, but the State has 4,000. Also, it has twice the number of inmates over the sanctioned strength in its 70 jails. As on July 31, there were 1,02,580 inmates, and jails record a high number of “unnatural deaths.” As per the 2015 NCRB report on jails, UP recorded 21 “unnatural deaths” in jails in the year, the highest in the country.
2 irrigation facilities in Telangana get heritage tag
  • A meeting of the International Executive Council, the highest decision making body of International Commission on Irrigation and Drainage (ICID), at Saskatoon in Canada last month has accepted Telangana government’s nomination of Sadarmatt anicut across river Godavari in Nirmal district and Pedda Cheruvu in Kamareddy district in the ICID Register of Heritage Irrigation Structures.
  • The plaques presented by the council for the two over-century-old irrigation facilities were received by the Member Secretary, Indian National Committee on Surface Water as Indian representative at the meeting. 
  • This award is a deserving recognition to Sadarmatt anicut which has provided precious water for paddy crops in its designed ayacut of 13,100 acres in present day Khanapur and Kadem mandals since its construction in 1891-92.
  • The anicut, which is English word for Telugu’s ana-katta, meaning a rainfall bund, was built by Nawab Ikbal-ud-Dowla who bore the tile of Vicar-ul-Umrah Bahadur in 1891-92 about 50 km downstream of the Sri Ram Sagar Project (SRSP) and is chiefly fed by Sawrnavagu stream after the construction of SRSP. C.E. Wilkinson was the Taluqdar then and J.J. Ottley was the engineer and Khanapur was a jagir of the Nawabs during the rule of the Nizam of Hyderabad.
  • The Pedda Cheruvu (big tank in Telugu) located on the outskirts of this district headquarters town is spread over an area of 618 acres and was built in 1897 during the rule of Mir Mahaboob Ali Khan, the sixth Nizam of Hyderabad State. It has a 1.8-km-long tank bund and 145-metre weir and three sluices. It’s catchment area is spread over 68.97 sq. km. and total flood flow is 8,860 cusecs.
  • With a capacity of 0.175 tmcft it provides water for irrigation to over 900 acres in Kamareddy, Sarampally, Narsampally and old Rajampet.
  • It also provides drinking water for residents of the area. Womenfolk play Bathukamma during the Navaratrotsavalu on its bund and immerse them in its waters. It is a picnic spot for residents of the area. Consequently, the Government wanted to develop it as a tourist spot by creating the necessary infrastructure.
  • Moreover, this tank was taken up under the second round of Mission Kakatiya to be developed as a mini tank bund with an estimated outlay of ₹6.6 crore. 
377 verdict has inbuilt firewall
  • Within the pages of the Supreme Court judgment decriminalising homosexuality contains a safeguard against any attempts by governments, present and future, to enact laws to make homosexuals criminals again.
  • The five-judge Constitution Bench led by Chief Justice of Dipak Misra has introduced the “Doctrine of Progressive Realisation of Rights” to guard against future attempts to reintroduce that part of Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code which had made the entire LGBTQ community “unconvicted felons” without the basic rights of a citizen for over a century.
  • Using this legal doctrine, Chief Justice Misra has held that once a right is recognised and given to the public, it cannot be taken back by the state at a later date. Once a step is taken forward, there is no going back.
  • The doctrine of progressive realisation of rights mandates that the laws of a country should be in consonance with its modern ethos, it should be “sensible” and “easy to apply”.
  • “The ‘doctrine of progressive realisation of rights’, as a natural corollary, gives birth to the doctrine of non-retrogression. As per this doctrine, there must not be any regression of rights … The doctrine of non-retrogression sets forth that the State should not take measures or steps that deliberately lead to retrogression on the enjoyment of rights either under the Constitution or otherwise,” Chief Justice Misra laid down in his separate opinion shared with Justice A.M. Khanwilkar for the Bench.
  • Chief Justice Misra notes that the Supreme Court went wrong in 2013 in the Suresh Koushal judgment, which set aside the brief reprieve offered by the historic Delhi High Court judgment on Section 377 in 2009 and placed the yoke of criminality back on the LGBTQ community.

ECONOMY

Finance Ministry to engage with States to shore up GST revenue
  • Alarmed by a nearly fourfold rise in GST compensation to States for June-July, the Finance Ministry is crafting a strategy to shore up tax revenues and engaging with States to identify issues hindering their collections.
  • Finance Secretary Hasmukh Adhia has started meeting GST officers, both from Central and State tax departments, in the State capitals to understand issues plaguing GST collections.
  • There has been a spike in the bi-monthly GST compensation paid to the States by the Centre.
  • The Centre paid ₹14,930 crore to compensate States for revenue loss incurred in June and July, a nearly four-fold jump compared to the ₹3,899 crore paid for the months of April and May.
  • A discussion to shore up revenues has already happened with four States — Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, Puducherry and Jammu and Kashmir, while a dialogue with Bihar and Uttarakhand is slated to take place later this month.
  • The official said that one of the options being considered is stepping up anti-evasion measures with a focus on top 30 taxpayers.
Govt. panel to look into e-com issues
  • With concerns being raised on some proposals of the draft e-commerce policy, the government has set up a group of secretaries to look into the issues, according to an official.
  • The group will be chaired by the Secretary in the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP).
  • The other members of the group include Secretaries of the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology and Department of Commerce.
  • “The group would look into all the issues of e-commerce sector,” the official said. The first meeting of the group is likely to be held this week.
Nepal to skip BIMSTEC military drill in India
  • The Nepal Army has withdrawn from the first BIMSTEC military exercise to be held in India following a political row in the country over the participation in the event, a media report said.
  • Prime Minister K.P. Oli asked the national defence force not to participate in the drill, compelling the Nepal Army leadership to rollback its earlier decision to take part in the first-ever military exercise of the regional grouping initiated by India. The decision was taken just a day before the Army squad was set to travel to Pune.
  • The move came after strong criticism from different quarters, including influential leaders of the ruling Nepal Communist Party.
  • The Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) comprises Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Bhutan and Nepal.
SPORTS

US Open 2018: Serena Williams loses to Naomi Osaka in controversial final marred by penalty
  • Osaka took down Williams 6-2, 6-4 to claim a historic victory of her own, becoming the first Japanese woman to win a Grand Slam final. 
  • The match ended in controversy and boos thanks to violations leveled by the chair umpire during the second set. 
  • As Serena was attempting to play herself back into the match, she was warned because her coach was allegedly making hand signals, which is a code violation. Williams was upset by the violation, claiming that her coach was simply giving her a thumbs up and demanding an apology from chair umpire Carlos Ramos.
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