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Current Affairs : 1 November 2018


Towering statue of Patel dedicated to the nation
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated a 182-metre statue of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel overlooking the Narmada river in Gujarat as a tribute to the country’s ‘Iron Man’.
  • Dedicating the ‘Statue of Unity’ to the nation on Sardar Patel’s birth anniversary, in a ceremony that saw Air Force aircraft shower petals as they flew overhead, Mr. Modi said: “It is a historic and inspiring occasion for all Indians. I am fortunate to dedicate this statue of Sardar Saheb to the nation.”
  • The Prime Minister recalled the Congress leader’s contribution in unifying the country after independence as he brought more than 500 princely states on a common platform to join the Union of India.
  • Built at a cost of ₹2,989 crore, the ‘Statue of Unity’ depicts Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, wearing a dhoti and a shawl, towering over the Narmada river and overlooking the Sardar Sarovar dam.
  • The statue, described as the world’s tallest given that it exceeds the height of China’s Spring Temple Buddha by 29 metres, was built by Indian construction major Larsen & Toubro (L&T) in 33 months.
  •  The statue was designed by Padma Bhushan-winning sculptor Ram V. Sutar.
  • Among those critical of the project and its cost were local tribals, whose attempts to hold a protest were foiled by the heavy deployment of police along the route to the statue. The local police even detained more than 50 activists and tribal leaders, fearing protests by them.
  • “There is nothing for tribals, who are original inhabitants of forest lands in this area,” said local MLA Chhotubhai Vasava, who has floated the Bhartiya Bhilistan Sena. “Instead of spending ₹3,000 crore on building a statue, the government should have started some new scheme for tribals,” he said.
  • Environmental activist Rohit Prajapati, who was also detained ahead of the inaugural event, said that the statue — built on a small island in the river — would cause damage to the Narmada’s ecology.
                Share non-confidential info on Rafale deal, SC tells govt.
                • The Supreme Court gave the government 10 days to provide petitioners, including former Union Ministers Yashwant Sinha and Arun Shourie, information which can be “legitimately placed in the public domain” about the Rafale deal.
                • This information would be sourced from a confidential note handed over by the government to the Supreme Court recently.
                • The note details core information on the various stages of the decision-making process, which led to the deal to buy the 36 fighter jets.
                • A Bench of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justices U.U. Lalit and K.M. Joseph passed the order after perusing the note. The Bench said any information considered at this stage to be strategic or confidential might be placed before the court but not be made available to the petitioners or their lawyers.
                • When the government objected to sharing details of the pricing/cost of the jets, Chief Justice Gogoi asked Attorney General K.K. Venugopal to file a written affidavit. 
                      Madras HC bans online sale of drugs
                      • The Madras High Court  banned online sale of medicines that could be sold only in pharmacies on the prescription of a registered medical practitioner.
                      •  Justice R. Mahadevan, in an interim order, directed the Union Ministry of Health and the competent authorities under the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940, to take immediate action.
                      • A writ petition filed by the Tamil Nadu Chemists and Druggists Association had sought a ban on websites that facilitate online sale of drugs.
                      • Senior counsel AR.L. Sundaresan said it was a matter of serious concern that online sale of drugs listed in Schedule H, H1 and X of the 1940 Act was rampant in the country though there was a specific legal bar on selling such medicines without the prescription of medical practitioners.
                      • The judge concurred: “This cannot be allowed. Thousands of innocent people may purchase the drugs online just because they were sold at cheaper prices and end up getting harmful products. What will happen if steroids are allowed to be sold without any prescription? This court shall examine the issue in detail.”
                      • The petition said the Drugs and Cosmetics Act was enacted during the colonial era and much before the advent of online trade. Though several amendments had been made to the law over the last 78 years, so far no provision had been introduced in it permitting online sale of drugs and medicines.
                      • “As per the Drugs and Cosmetics Rules of 1945, it is not permitted to ship, mail or provide door delivery of the prescribed medicines... Yet, drugs of scheduled and non scheduled category are available online and distributed across the country,” it claimed.
                                India jumps to 77th rank in the Ease of Doing Business Index

                                • India jumped 23 ranks in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Index 2018 to 77. In the 2017 report, the country was ranked 100.
                                • The Index ranks 190 countries based on 10 indicators across the life-cycle of a business, from “starting a business” to “resolving insolvency.”
                                • “India’s strong reform agenda to improve the business climate for small and medium enterprises is bearing fruit. It is also reflected in the government’s strong commitment to broaden the business reforms agenda at the State and now even at the district level,” Junaid Ahmad, World Bank country director in India, said in a press release.
                                • Finance Minister Arun Jaitley pointed out that since the World Bank sets May 1 as the deadline for measurement, there are several initiatives taken by the government that will only reflect in next year’s rankings including the effects of the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code and the full effect of the Goods and Services Tax.
                                •  In addition, Mumbai abolished the practice of site inspections for registering companies under the Shops and Establishments Act. As a result, the time to start a business has been halved to 16 days, from 30 days.”
                                •  He said that despite the sharp improvement India has made in several categories in the Index, there were others such as registering a property, starting a business, taxation, insolvency, and enforcing a contract where a lot of work still needs to be done.
                                • This year, two South Asian economies, India and Afghanistan, made it into the top 10 global improvers list. India, with a score of 67.23 (a gain of 6.63 from last year), did best on 'dealing with construction permits' and 'trading across borders' over a period of one year.
                                          J&K Governor flags off ‘Saubhagya Raths’
                                          • Governor Satya Pal Malik flagged off ‘Saubhagya Raths’ for 20 districts here to identify households without electricity. Officials onboard these ‘Saubhagya Raths’ will survey areas in their respective jurisdiction with an aim to achieve 100 per cent electrification. 
                                          SC: live-in partner can seek maintenance
                                          • A live-in partner can seek maintenance under the Domestic Violence Act, the Supreme Court has said in a recent order.
                                          • The 2005 Act provides an “efficacious remedy” for maintenance even if the victim is not a legally wedded wife, a Bench of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, Justices U.U. Lalit and K.M. Joseph observed.
                                          • “In fact, under the provisions of the DVC Act, 2005 the victim i.e. estranged wife or live-in-partner would be entitled to more relief than what is contemplated under Section 125 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, namely, to a shared household also,” the court pointed out in a short order on October 30.
                                          • What would be significant to note is that economic abuse also constitutes domestic violence under the 2005 Act, the Bench noted in the order.

                                              Khashoggi was strangled and dismembered: Turkish prosecutor
                                              • Jamal Khashoggi was strangled as soon as he entered the Saudi consulate in and then dismembered as part of a premeditated plan, Turkey’s chief prosecutor said, making details of the murder public for the first time.
                                              • The revelations came just hours after Saudi Arabia’s chief prosecutor left Istanbul, and the Turkish prosecutor’s office said it was “obliged” to reveal the details after the talks produced “no concrete results”.
                                              • “The victim’s body was dismembered and destroyed following his death by suffocation — again, in line with advance plans,” the statement added. 
                                              • Riyadh sent the head of its investigation to Istanbul this week.
                                              • After arriving on Sunday, Saudi Arabia’s Attorney-General Sheikh Saud al-Mojeb met with Mr. Fidan twice, visited the consulate and spoke with Turkey’s MIT intelligence agency.
                                              • He flew out of Istanbul on Wednesday afternoon without making a public statement.

                                                      RBI autonomy is ‘essential’, says Centre
                                                      • The Ministry of Finance has acknowledged that the autonomy of the Reserve Bank of India is an ‘essential and accepted governance requirement,’ in a statement. 
                                                      • Significantly, it neither confirmed nor denied that it had issued directives to the central bank under section 7 of the RBI Act.
                                                      • “Governments in India have nurtured and respected this. Both the Government and the Central Bank, in their functioning, have to be guided by public interest and the requirements of the Indian economy. For the purpose, extensive consultations on several issues take place between the Government and the RBI from time to time,” the statement added. 
                                                      • Later in the day, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said, “We need not answer more than we have said today. The statement says that the communication between the RBI and the government are never made public. Only decisions are made public.”
                                                      • While speculation abounded  about whether the Centre had invoked section 7 of the RBI Act, which would give the government the ability to direct the central bank’s actions, the Finance Ministry remained silent on the issue. The Economic Affairs Secretary too declined comment.
                                                      • Section 7 of the RBI Act reads. “Subject to any such directions, the general superintendence and direction of the affairs and business of the Bank shall be entrusted to a Central Board of Directors which may exercise all powers and do all acts and things which may be exercised or done by the Bank.”
                                                      • This Central Board of Directors, as per the Act, comprises a Governor and [not more than four] Deputy Governors to be appointed by the Centre, four Directors to be nominated by the Centre and one government official nominated by the Centre. Giving control of the RBI to its Board of Directors effectively gives control to the Central Government.
                                                                Mondelez opens global research centre in India
                                                                • Mondelez, owner of the popular Cadbury brand of chocolates and Bournvita, has launched its Research, Development and Quality Technical Center in Thane near at an investment of $15 million to develop new products and technologies for the company’s global brands in chocolate and beverages. 
                                                                • This is the 10th such research centre for the company, said a statement from Mondelez.
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