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Current Affairs : 25 October 2018


Centre sets up GoM on sexual harassment
  • The Centre established a Group of Ministers to recommend measures to effectively implement the law against sexual harassment at the workplace and to strengthen the legal and institutional framework in response to the #MeToo campaign.
  • Home Minister Rajnath Singh will head the GoM, which includes Minister for Road Transport and Highways Nitin Gadkari, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi.
  • The GoM will come up with a comprehensive plan within three months and devise ways to ensure its time-bound implementation, an official statement said.
  • A panel of legal luminaries, recommended by Ms. Gandhi on the lines of the Justice Verma Committee, has been quietly junked.
      Lokayukta from Feb., T.N. tells SC
      • The Tamil Nadu government gave an undertaking to the Supreme Court that the office of Lokayukta will start to function from February 1 next year.
      • The State’s assurance came after a Bench led by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi took a stern view of the non-appointment of the anti-corruption ombudsman.
      • The court gave time till 2 p.m. in the afternoon for other States like West Bengal and Telangana to also get instructions from the respective Chief Secretaries about the appointment of Lokayuktas.
      • West Bengal returned in the afternoon to inform the court that the Lokayukta would be functional from January 1.
      • Meanwhile, Telangana submitted that it would appoint a Lokayukta within three months of the formation of a new government.
      • The Union Territory of Puducherry submitted that it would send its Lokayukta Bill for approval to the Union Ministry of Home Affairs. 
      • The court has asked the Additional Solicitor General for the Centre to apprise it whether the approval process can be expedited.
      • In March, the court had asked 11 States to explain the five-year delay in appointment of anti-corruption ombudsman Lokayukta and Uplokayukta. It had found that several States have not appointed Lokayuktas despite the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act coming into existence in 2013
      Government to set up skill development centres
      • The Centre has decided to set up skill development institutes on government land, in partnership with private players, across the country.
      • The public-private partnership model will be adopted to set up the institutes — to be called the Indian Institutes of Skills — at select locations, based on demand and available infrastructure.
      • The institutes are expected to help boost the global competitiveness of key industry sectors by providing high-quality skill training, applied research education and a direct and meaningful connection with the industry.
      Nod for panel on sustainable development goals
      • The Cabinet approved the setting up of a high-level steering committee chaired by the Chief Statistician of India and Secretary to the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation to review if India was on track to achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).
      • The panel would decide if there was a need to “refine” indicators by reviewing the National Indicator Framework periodically. 
      • The SDGs are a list of 17 goals, including elimination of poverty, ending hunger, ensuring provision of quality education, clean water and sanitation, that countries must achieve by 2030.
      • The committee would recommend measures to “mainstream” SDGs into ongoing national policies, programmes and strategic action plans to address the developmental challenges.
      Centre’s nod for ₹7,522 cr. fisheries fund
      • The Centre has set up a ₹7,522-crore fund to create infrastructure facilities for the fisheries sector and help boost annual fish production to 20 million tonnes by 2022-23 from the current production of 11.4 million tonnes.
      • The establishment of the Fisheries and Aquaculture Infrastructure Development Fund was approved by the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs on Wednesday, said an official statement. 
      • Loan lending will be over a period of five years till 2022-23 and maximum repayment will be over a period of 12 years, inclusive of a moratorium of two years on repayment of principal.
      SC bans sale of BS-IV vehicles from 2020
      • The Supreme Court banned the sale and registration of motor vehicles conforming to the emission standard Bharat Stage-IV in the entire country from April 1, 2020.
      • It said pollution has reached an “alarming and critical” level all over India. “It brooks no delay,” a three-judge Bench of Justices Madan B. Lokur, S. Abdul Nazeer and Deepak Gupta observed in a 20-page judgment.
      • The country will have to shift to the cleaner Bharat- VI fuel from April 1, 2020. Bharat Stage (BS) emission norms are standards instituted by the government to regulate output of air pollutants from motor vehicles. The BS-IV norms have been enforced across the country since April 2017. In 2016, the Centre had announced that the country would skip the BS-V norms altogether and adopt BS-VI norms by 2020.
      • The apex court said there cannot be any compromise on the health of citizens and this has to take precedence over the “greed” of a few automobile manufacturers who want to stretch the timeline.
      Israel, India sign $777 mn missile deal
      • Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) has signed a $777 mn deal with Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL) to supply additional Barak-8 Long Range Surface to Air Missile (LRSAM) systems for seven warships of the Indian Navy.
      • The total orders for LRSAM systems have crossed over $6 billion, he added.
      • The LRSAM can intercept aerial targets up to a range of 80 km. It is being co-developed by the DRDO in India and IAI, and will be manufactured by Bharat Dynamics Limited.
      Law does not allow for abrupt removal: experts
      • The Supreme Court has to examine whether the government and the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) can unilaterally remove the CBI Director on the assumption that the move will restore public faith in the country’s premier investigative agency.
      • The CVC and the government both agree they have the power to divest Alok Verma of his office to save the credibility of the institution. They quote from the Central Vigilance Commission Act and the Delhi Special Police Establishment (DSPE) Act to show they can exercise “superintendence and control” over the agency. 
      • For this, the government and the CVC bank on Section 4(1) of the DSPE Act, which allows the commission to supervise investigation of offences under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988. The DSPE Act gives the Centre the power of superintendence over the CBI “in all other matters.”
      • Section 4(1) is again echoed in Section 8 of the Central Vigilance Commission Act. These provisions allow the commission to exercise superintendence over the CBI and give directions in relation to the investigation of corruption cases.
      • But the moot point is whether these provisions allow the government and the commission to strip the CBI Director of his job.
      • In this regard, legal experts refer to Section 4B(2) of the DSPE Act, which mandates that the CBI Director cannot be “transferred” without the previous consent of a high-power committee chaired by the Prime Minister. 
      • Firstly, they argue, the CBI Director is appointed on the recommendation of this committee which has the Leader of the Opposition and the Chief Justice of India as members.
      • Relieving the CBI chief of his post would, as a natural corollary, require taking the consent of this committee.
      • Experts further point to Section 4C of the DSPE Act. This provision clearly says that the CVC has no role, whatsoever, in curtailing or extending the tenure of the CBI Director.
      • They argue that a committee led by the Central Vigilance Commissioner may have authority over the tenure of the Special CBI Director, but not the CBI Director.

      Still open to seeking IMF help: Pakistan
      • Pakistan has not dropped the idea of seeking assistance from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) despite Saudi Arabia offering a $6 billion aid package, officials said.
      • Prime Minister Imran Khan earlier this month gave the green signal to Finance Minister Asad Umar to seek an IMF bailout. But the situation changed when Mr. Khan dashed to Riyadh to attend an investment forum. His meeting with Saudi King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman resulted in the signing of an agreement to provide Pakistan $3 billion to support its balance of payments. Riyadh also agreed to give oil worth $3 billion on deferred payments.
      • Sources in the Finance Ministry said that Pakistan needed about $10 billion in the current fiscal year to support its imports and to repay foreign debts.

        Zydus to acquire Heinz India
        • Zydus Wellness Ltd., which is into consumer healthcare, has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire Heinz India Private Limited, the subsidiary of Kraft Heinz, jointly with Cadila Healthcare Ltd., at a valuation of ₹4,595 crore.
        • Heinz India’s business comprises brands such as Complan, Glucon D, Nycil and Sampriti Ghee.
        RBI may make some changes in PCA norms
        • The Reserve Bank may make some changes in the Prompt Corrective Action (PCA) framework that put restrictions on financially weak banks, sources said.
        • The changes could be made in the next few weeks after taking into account various aspects and in the larger interest of the banking system, sources said, adding that the recent RBI board meeting had a discussion on the issue.
        • As many as 11 out of 21 banks are under the RBI’s watchlist. Of these, Dena Bank and Allahabad Bank are facing restrictions on expansion of business.
        • Last month, State-run banks had requested the government for relaxation in PCA guidelines as these were indirectly impacting their lending ability.
        • However, RBI Deputy Governor Viral V. Acharya said earlier this month that imposition of the PCA was essential for the revival of financially weak banks and deepening reforms in the banking space.
        • With the resolution of large NPA cases getting closure to conclusion, the Finance Ministry expects that realisation from the proceeds may help some of the banks to come out of Prompt Corrective Action (PCA) framework this fiscal.
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