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Current Affairs : 13 November 2018


Rafale deal not done in a hurry: Centre
  • The Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) approved the procurement of the 36 Rafale jets well over a year after the Indo-French Joint Statement to acquire the aircraft “as quickly as possible” was issued, said a government note in the Supreme Court on the Rafale deal.
  • The Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP) 2013 mandates that acquisitions worth over ₹1,000 crore should be first cleared by the CCS.
  • Since 2002, over 1,100 contracts valued at ₹7.45 lakh crore were successfully concluded using the DPP structure, introduced after the Kargil War.
  • The note, submitted earlier to the court and made public on Monday as per a court order of October 31, claimed that DPP 2013 was “completely followed.”
  • The document showed that the CCS approved the signing of the Inter-Governmental Agreement (IGA) for procurement of the 36 jets only on August 24, 2016 — well over a year after the Indo-French statement of April 10, 2015, which the note said conveyed an “intent” to acquire the jets in a fly-away condition.
  • The approval of the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC), the highest body for defence procurement, was taken on May 13, 2015. Again, a month after the Indo-French statement.
  • The note said the joint statement was issued after the Government of India conveyed to the French government about the “critical operational necessity” for Multi-role Combat Aircraft for the Air Force. This necessity, it said, was triggered by the “extremely critical” combat potential of the Air Force caused by a three-year stalemate.
  • The situation was due to “unresolved issues” over man-hours and contractual obligations between HAL and Dassault Aviation over the production of 108 Rafale jets, of a total 126, to be inducted in the Air Force as part of an earlier proposal.
SC frowns on tardy CVC submission 
  • A 24-hour delay by the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) in filing its report on the inquiry against exiled CBI Director Alok Kumar Verma led the Supreme Court to adjourn Monday’s crucial hearing to November 16 (Friday).
  • The report was submitted before a Bench of Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi and Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul in a sealed cover. It was then that Solicitor-General Tushar Mehta, for the CVC, said the inquiry into the charges against Mr. Verma got over on November 10. At this, Chief Justice Gogoi made the court’s displeasure evident on the delayed filing.
  • Mr. Mehta said there was a delay in reaching the court, by which time the Registry was closed.
  • “There was no information from you... You could have filed the report even at 1 p.m., provided you had informed the Registry,” Chief Justice Gogoi retorted.
  • “They [the CVC] could open their offices at 2 a.m. on October 23 to pass orders against Alok Verma, but they could not file their inquiry report on time,” remarked senior advocate Dushyant Dave, for petitioner NGO Common Cause.
  • Mr. Mehta then apologised, following which the court allowed the CVC report to be placed on record.
Deny MSP to stubble burners: NGT
  • Stating that State governments had failed to curb stubble burning, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) summoned the Chief Secretaries of Delhi, Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh.
  • Officers have been directed to draw up a plan to provide economic incentives and disincentives to farmers.
  • A Bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel said, “The fact remains that the problem has not been fully tackled and the adverse impacts on the air quality and consequent impacts on the citizens’ health and lives are undisputed.”
  • During the hearing, it was suggested to the Bench that incentives could be provided to those who are not burning the stubble and disincentives for those who continue the practice. “We make it clear that the existing Minimum Support Price (MSP) Scheme must be so interpreted as to enable the States concerned to wholly or partly deny the benefit of MSP to those who continue to burn the crop residue” the Bench said.
  • While the officers have been asked to be present on November 15, the NGT specified that the “short time is on account of the urgency of the situation with regard to deteriorating air quality prevailing in NCT Delhi and adjoining areas.”
  • Secretary, Union Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare has also been directed to be present to “find a lasting solution.”
  • The NGT also said that “it is open to the Central government” convening a meeting with the States.
Tamil Nadu braces for Cyclone Gaja
  • Cyclone Gaja is likely to cross the Tamil Nadu coast between Cuddalore district and Pamban, in Ramanathapuram district, in the forenoon of Thursday
  • Though it is likely to intensify into a severe cyclonic storm in the open seas, it is set to weaken gradually, and cross the coast only as a cyclonic storm. It is likely to bring heavy to very heavy rainfall at a few places over seven districts in the state on Wednesday and Thursday, according to the India Meteorological Department.
  • Named by Sri Lanka, it is the 55th tropical cyclone since the naming convention started in 2004. While rainfall is expected over most parts of north Tamil Nadu and Puducherry, a few places in districts such as Thanjavur, Tiruvarur, Karaikal, Nagapattinam, Cuddalore, Ramanathapuram and Pudukottai may experience heavy to very heavy rainfall, scaling up to 24 cm on Wednesday and Thursday.
  • One or two places in these districts may also receive rainfall in excess of 24.4 cm, for which a red colour-coded warning has been issued. 
  • “Such colour-coded weather warnings are given for agencies involved in disaster management to be prepared even if extremely heavy rainfall is likely to occur in one or two places of the State. A red colour-coded warning for a State does not mean that the entire State is facing a threat of extremely heavy rainfall,” said S. Balachandran, Deputy Director General of Meteorology, Chennai.
  • Gale-force winds reaching speeds of 80-90 km per hour may prevail along and off north Tamil Nadu and Puducherry coasts.
Bengaluru welcomes winged visitors
  • The migratory season is here and winged visitors from foreign lands have started making the green landscapes and waterbodies around the city their home. Among the land birds, enthusiasts can spot various species such as greenish leaf warblers and bright reed warblers, flycatchers and golden orioles.
  • “Though the number of land birds has declined drastically in the past years owing to loss of greenery, these species are not hard to spot in the city. One can spot them in thick wooded patches in the city, but in smaller numbers,” says M.B. Krishna, an ornithologist.
  • Spot-billed duck, garganey duck and pintail duck, can be spotted along with species of sandpipers, black-winged stilts, herons and egrets through the season.
  • The revived Jakkur, Saul Kere, Yelahanaka, Kaikondrahalli and Madiwala lakes are some of the places to head to this birding season.
  • According to the eBird India website — a portal where birders post their latest spotting experiences — 290 species have been sighted across the city this year.
  • Valley School remains the biggest hotspot for birding, with 193 species being spotted here. Hessaraghatta Lake and GKVK campus are the other two spots from where birders have been reporting a large number of sightings — 184 and 160 species, respectively.

          Top election official, parties challenge Sirisena’s move
          • One of Sri Lanka’s independent Election Commissioners joined a host of political parties in challenging President Maithripala Sirisena’s recent dissolution of Parliament in the country’s Supreme Court.
          • The court asked the Attorney-General to explain the President’s decision at Tuesday’s hearing, after lawyers representing various parties denounced the sacking of Parliament as illegal and unconstitutional. The Attorney-General sought another day’s time to respond, but the Chief Justice refused.
          • Election Commissioner Ratnajeevan Hoole filed action in Supreme Court against being ordered by gazette to conduct “an illegal election”.
          • On Monday, the Commissioners, however, decided they will not object to any relief being sought by other petitioners.
          • Appearing for Mr. Hoole, attorney at law Hejaaz Hizbullah argued, that a franchise was about people getting together and expressing an opinion on who should represent them in Parliament, and who should make laws.
          • The thrust of most arguments made by over 10 lawyers on Monday, was that a general provision — Article 33 (2) (c) of Sri Lanka’s Constitution — which enumerates some powers of the President — cannot override a specific provision in Article 70 (1) that expressly limits those powers.
          • All parties, except those in the Sirisena-Rajapaksa front, have sought a stay order on the dissolution of Parliament and conduct of polls.
          • Sri Lanka plunged into a political crisis on October 26, after Mr. Sirisena controversially appointed former President Mahinda Rajapaksa as Prime Minister, sacking Ranil Wickremesinghe from the office. In the fortnight since, foreign governments have not publicly commented on the administration. 
          • Meanwhile, Reuters reported that eight Western countries stayed away from a meeting with Sri Lanka’s newly-installed government on Monday, “to register their protest against Mr. Sirisena’s decision to dissolve Parliament”.
                        Iran is honouring the 2015 nuclear deal, says IAEA
                        • Iran has continued to implement the main nuclear restrictions set by its 2015 deal with major powers even as the U.S. reimposed sanctions against Tehran, a UN atomic watchdog report showed.
                        • Iran has kept its stock of low-enriched uranium as well as the level to which it refines uranium within the limits set by the deal, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report.
                        • Several of the main items curbed under the deal, designed to lengthen the time Iran would need to build a nuclear bomb, were verified shortly before U.S. sanctions were reimposed.
                        • A senior diplomat, however, later said that there was no sign Iranian behaviour had changed since that date. 

                            IIP growth falters as inflation eases

                            • Growth in industrial activity as measured by the Index of Industrial Production slowed marginally in September to 4.5% due to slowing growth in the manufacturing and capital goods sectors, official data released showed.
                            • IIP growth slowed from 4.67% in August. (August’s IIP growth was revised from the provisional 4.3% released earlier.) Growth in manufacturing eased to 4.62% in September from 5.08% in August. Activity in mining and quarrying accelerated, growing at 0.21% in September compared with a contraction of 0.54% in the previous month.
                            • “While statistically marginal, the overall production and manufacturing indices show a rise in absolute terms indicating that domestic demand likely remains resilient,” Anis Chakravarty, Lead Economist & Partner at Deloitte India said in a note.
                            • Growth in the electricity sector touched 8.24% in September, up from 7.59% in the previous month. The capital goods sector, however, saw growth slowing to 5.76% from 9.34%. Growth in infrastructure and construction sped to 9.5% in September from 7.95% in August.
                            • Consumer inflation, as measured by the Consumer Price Index, eased in October to 3.31%, from 3.77% the previous month, owing to slowing price growth in the food, housing, and footwear segments.
                            • Inflation in the food and beverages segment contracted 0.14% in October compared with growth of 1.01% in September.
                            • The clothing and footwear category saw inflation easing to 3.55% from 4.64% over the same period. Inflation in the housing segment slowed to 6.55% from 7.07%.
                            • “Benign inflation and a strong footing in industrial development are expected to boost investor sentiment and increased FDI and FII inflows in the coming months,” Rajeev Talwar, president, PHD Chamber of Commerce and Industry said. “Stability in inflation would strengthen the macroeconomic environment and pave the way for soft monetary policy regime, going forward.”
                                        RBI unlikely to open window for NBFCs
                                        • Amid growing demand for liquidity support for non-banking finance companies, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) is unlikely to provide any special support to the sector, though it will continue to provide funds to the banking system as liquidity deficit in the system is a concern.
                                        • According to sources, the RBI is of the view that bigger NBFCs that have high ratings from rating agencies are not facing any liquidity issues. It is the mid-sized and smaller NBFCs, mostly housing finance firms, that will face some issues. According to market estimates, about ₹1.5 lakh crore of commercial paper face redemption this month, a bulk of which are issued by NBFCs.
                                        • That better-rated NBFCs aren’t handicapped for funds was evident when Dewan Housing Finance — for example — repaid commercial paper worth ₹1,775 crore on November 5.
                                        • Another large housing finance company, PNB Housing Finance repaid ₹4,225 crore of CP in October 2018.
                                        • NBFCs can avail refinance facility from SIDBI or National Housing Bank and can also sell loans to banks. NHB has recently increased its refinancing limit by ₹6,000 crore-- to ₹30,000 crore-- to eligible institutions, including housing finance companies, for the July 2018-June 2019 period. Similarly, SBI trebled its loan purchase target for NBFCs to ₹45,000 crore for the current financial year.
                                        • The liquidity issue for NBFCs, along with other issues like capital requirement for banks and more dividend from RBI to the government, has been a bone of contention between the central bank and the Finance Ministry. The Centre has cited the never-used provision under section 7 of the RBI Act to initiate consultations with RBI. Under this section, the government can issue directions to RBI. All eyes are now on the RBI’s board meeting scheduled for November 19.

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