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Current Affairs : 15 November 2018


French govt. didn’t guarantee Rafale deal, Centre tells SC
  • The Centre admitted in the Supreme Court that there was no sovereign guarantee from the French government on the deal for 36 Rafale jets in case the manufacturer, Dassault Aviation, defaults.
  • Sovereign guarantee is a promise by a government to discharge the liability of a third person in case of his default.
  • Attorney-General K.K. Venugopal said there was a “Letter of Comfort” from France, which was as good as a sovereign guarantee. The petitioners countered that such a letter had no legal validity.
  • The Law Ministry had raised the lack of a sovereign guarantee as a key “problem” associated with the deal during inter-ministerial consultations before the Inter Government Agreement was signed on September 23, 2016.
  • The Bench, comprising Justices S.K. Kaul and K.M. Joseph, heard the petitions for a probe into the decision-making process for the procurement of the jets.
        GSAT-29 has a perfect launch
        • Amid concerns over Cyclone Gaja spoiling the launch of the country’s heaviest satellite to be carried on board an indigenous rocket from Indian soil, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) pulled off the feat to perfection.
        • The team went ahead with the launch of the GSAT-29 on board its second developmental flight GSLV-MkIII D2 from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre at Sriharikota to clear blue skies as plumes of smoke from the rocket left a trail in the horizon after lift-off from the second launch pad at 5.08 p.m.
        • The satellite was placed in a geo-synchronous transfer orbit 17 minutes after launch.
        • “The first operational mission of this vehicle (GSLV-MkIII) is going to be none other than the Chandrayaan-II mission in January next year. This vehicle is going to carry a human to space three years from now. Kudos to this excellent launcher of India,” ISRO Chairman K. Sivan said.
            BJP blocking name change: Mamata
            • West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Wednesday raised the pitch for changing the name of the State to Bangla, saying that the proposal has been lying with the Centre for a long time.
            • Ms. Banerjee, through a long post on social media, said that the West Bengal State Assembly had passed a unanimous resolution “to change the name of our State on the basis of local sentiments related to our mother tongue, Bangla”.
            • “It was resolved that the name of the State be changed from West Bengal to Bengal in English, Bangla in Bengali and Bangal in Hindi and the resolution was sent to the Union Home Ministry,” she added.
            • “However, the Ministry advised us to use the name Bangla in all three languages. Accordingly, our Assembly passed an unanimous resolution to change the name of the State to Bangla in all three languages and sent it to the Ministry again,” the Chief Minister said.
            • She alleged that almost every day the “BJP has been changing the names of historical places and institutions unilaterally to suit their own political vested interests… But in respect of Bengal, the attitude is totally different.”
            • One of the reasons cited by the State government is that West Bengal comes at the bottom of alphabetic order in the list of States.
            • In an oblique reference to reports that the Centre has objected to ‘Bangla’ because the similarity with Bangladesh could create problems, Ms. Banerjee said “similarity of names should not create a hurdle”.
            • “There is a Punjab in our neighbouring country as well as in India,” she argued.
                        RBI, govt. to bury the hatchet?
                        • The government and the Reserve Bank of India seem to be veering around to reach an agreeable solution, particularly with respect to relaxation of the Prompt Corrective Action (PCA) framework and easing of lending norms for the MSME sector, ahead of the RBI board meeting on November 19, sources said.
                        • If not in this board meeting, the sources say, the issue of relaxation of PCA framework, which the Finance Ministry has been pitching for, will be reached in the next few weeks. As a result of relaxation, some banks may come out of the PCA framework by the end of the current fiscal.
                        • Of the 21 state-owned banks, 11 are under the PCA framework. 
                        • The PCA framework kicks in when banks breach any of the three key regulatory trigger points — capital to risk weighted assets ratio, net non-performing assets (NPA) and return on assets (RoA). 
                        • The RBI is also likely to agree to easing of lending norms for the MSME sector, including strict rating criteria, to improve credit flow, the sources said. The RBI is expected to consider a special dispensation for the MSME sector and NBFCs.
                              Modi, Pence discuss trade, terrorism in Singapore
                              • Prime Minister Narendra Modi and U.S. Vice-President Mike Pence held talks on a wide range of bilateral and global issues of mutual interests, including defence and trade cooperation, ways to counter terrorism and the need for maintaining a free and open Indo-Pacific.
                              • In a readout, his office said he encouraged free and reciprocal trade with India.
                              • There was some discussion on the issue of terrorism. Mr. Pence referred to the upcoming 10th anniversary of the deadly Mumbai terror attack on November 26 and hailed cooperation between the two sides on counter-terrorism. 
                              • Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale said. Mr. Modi thanked Mr. Pence and said that in one way or another all the traces and all the leads in the global terror attacks ultimately led to a “single source and single place of origin”, without naming any country or organisation.

                                  Sri Lanka Parliament votes against Rajapaksa govt.
                                  • In a watershed floor test in the Sri Lankan Parliament, a majority of lawmakers voted for a no-confidence motion against disputed Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa.
                                  • “I hereby declare that the appointed government has no majority in this House,” Speaker Karu Jayasuriya told Parliament shortly after it reconvened.
                                  • Parliament had been shut for nearly three weeks since President Maithripala Sirisena prorogued and subsequently dissolved it, in the wake of an unprecedented political struggle in the country.
                                  • On October 26, Mr. Sirisena abruptly sacked Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and installed Mr. Rajapaksa, a former President, in his place, sparking widespread criticism.
                                  • After Mr. Rajapaksa’s MPs refused to vote by name in the floor test, the Speaker called for a vote by voice and declared that the ayes had it.
                                  • The development — coming a day after the Supreme Court stayed the sacking of Parliament — signalled a major setback for Mr. Sirisena, with both the judiciary and the legislature challenging his recent actions.

                                          ‘RBI monetary policy too conservative’
                                          • The RBI is being too conservative in its monetary policy and the government is right in criticising the central bank on this count, according to Christopher Wood, managing director and equity strategist at CLSA, a capital markets and investment group.
                                          • He said that the central bank should make it clear whether it was targeting headline inflation or core inflation, since the former had been falling and as such did not warrant a conservative monetary policy.
                                          • “Monetary policy in India is tight,” Mr. Wood said. “I personally agree with the government, it is too tight. They have very high real rates compared to headline inflation. Now core inflation is higher, but monetary policy is based on headline inflation. So therefore, the monetary policy is too tight. If the RBI is actually also tracking core CPI, then they should tell the market, but they haven’t said that. Personally, I am somewhat sympathetic to the criticism.”
                                          • “The biggest risk in India is if oil prices skyrocket,” he said. 
                                          • “Oil at $150 is a possibility if you get politically driven supply disruptions,” Mr. Wood said. 
                                          • The earlier belief that shale oil production in the U.S. would kick in higher oil prices to effectively cap it had now been belied by a number of factors.
                                          • “The ability of shale to crank up production dramatically is limited because some of the best shale areas are already depleted.”

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