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Current Affairs: 16 November 2018


SC pulls up States for not recruiting judges
  • The Supreme Court pulled up various State governments and the administrative side of the High Courts for delay in filling vacancies in subordinate judicial services.
  • A Bench, led by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi, had taken suo motu cognisance of more than 5,000 vacancies for subordinate judicial posts even as pendency touched crores.
  • More than three crore cases are pending in the lower courts.
  • It found that the source of the problem lay in poor infrastructure, from courtrooms to residences for judges, and a sheer lackadaisical approach to conducting the appointment process on time.
  • The Supreme Court had earlier warned of centralising appointments to the subordinate judiciary. The court found there were more than 1,000 vacancies in Uttar Pradesh alone.
  • It discovered that a lack of infrastructure and staff plagued the West Bengal judicial services. 
  • The court took note of an undertaking given by the Uttar Pradesh government that it would provide adequate housing arrangements for judicial officers.
  • The Bench found that the recruitment process was under way for only 100 vacancies in Delhi, which has over 200 vacancies.
  • In a five-page order earlier, the Supreme Court had recorded that there were a total of 22,036 posts in the district and subordinate judiciary, ranging from district judges to junior civil judges, across the States.
  • It said 5,133 out of the 22,036 posts were vacant.
Centre not keen on changing West Bengal name to Bangla
  • The Centre is not keen on changing the name of West Bengal to ‘Bangla’ as it was “not in national interest,” a senior government official said on Thursday.
  • The official said the West Bengal government’s proposal to change the State’s name to ‘Bangla’ had been sent to Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) for consultation, as the proposed name resembles that of Bangladesh.
  • The official said, “The name change could attract illegal immigrants and encourage them to cross the border due to the similarity in names.
  • West Bengal shares 2,217 km border with Bangladesh.
  • The official added that no final decision has been taken and they would await a response from the MEA.
  • State Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had on Wednesday accused the Centre of sitting on the proposal. 
  • On July 26, the West Bengal Assembly had passed a resolution to change the name of the State as ‘Bangla’ in three languages — Bengali, English and Hindi. This resolution was moved after the Home Ministry objected to the 2016 proposal by the State to change the name to ‘Bengal’ in English, ‘Bangla’ in Bengali and ‘Bangal’ in Hindi, saying names in different languages was not possible.
PM favours inclusive Indo-Pacific region
  • India is committed to a peaceful and prosperous Indo-Pacific region, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said, as he called for enhancing multilateral cooperation and economic and cultural ties among member-nations at the 13th East Asia Summit in Singapore.
  • It was Prime Minister Modi’s 5th East Asia Summit (EAS). India has been participating in the EAS since its very inception in 2005. 
  • The EAS consists of 10 ASEAN nations (Indonesia, Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam, Myanmar, Cambodia, Brunei and Laos), Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea, Russia and the U.S.
Vietnam opposes military alliances in region: envoy
  • Vietnam has an “ambivalent” position on the Quad grouping comprising India, Australia, Japan, and the U.S., Ambassador Pham Sanh Chau said. 
  • Elaborating, he said while Vietnam welcomed any country’s initiative to preserve freedom of navigation and overflight in the region, it was opposed to any military alliance that could undermine regional peace and security.
  • The Vietnamese Ambassador’s comments came even as officials from the Quad grouping met in Singapore on Thursday. In a sign that the four countries continued to have differences on the objectives of the grouping, each of the four sides issued separate statements.
  • The Ambassador added that Vietnam did not want the region to become a “theatre” for power play by major powers.
  • “We will not join any alliance in order to fight any third country,” he asserted.
India, China agree to expand military ties
  • India and China are set to expand their military ties, in tune with the spirit of the Wuhan informal summit between Chinese President Xi Jinping and Prime Minister Narendra Modi in April.
  • During talks between visiting Defence Secretary Sanjay Mitra and his Chinese counterpart Shao Yuanming, both sides agreed to add another layer of exchanges between the military personnel of the two countries.
  • For the first time, cadets from Indian and Chinese military academies, as well mid-level officers, will meet each other regularly.
  • The two senior officials also agreed to continue with visits at the level of military commands and civilian officers of the Ministry of Defence.
  • An Indian Embassy statement noted that “specific additional confidence-building measures at the operational level” have been included in view of the importance of maintaining peace and tranquillity in the India-China border areas. 
  • The Defence Secretary’s visit precedes the arrival of National Security Adviser Ajit Doval later this month for boundary talks with State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi. Mr. Xi and Mr. Modi are then expected to meet on the sidelines of the G-20 summit in Argentina next month.
There can’t be a ban on use of word ‘Dalit’ in media: PCI
  • There cannot be a complete ban on the use of the word “Dalit” in the media, the Press Council of India, the body that regulates print media, has ruled.
  • The Information and Broadcasting Ministry had issued an advisory to all media outlets to not use the word “Dalit” to refer to members belonging to the Scheduled Castes.
  • In an earlier order on March 15, the Ministry of Social Justice too had issued a similar advisory to all the State governments and the Union Territories that in all official transactions, the constitutional term “Scheduled Caste” should be used instead of the word “Dalit”.
  • “Our reading of the Bombay High Court order is that it did not seek a ban on the word ‘Dalit’. We deliberated on the order and have come to the conclusion that it is advisable not to issue directions/orders prohibiting the use of word ‘Dalit’,” PCI chairman Justice C.K. Prasad said. He added that it had to be adjudicated on case-to-case basis.

U.K. faces a new crisis over Brexit
  • Hopes that Britain’s course to Brexit was finally on track were dashed as several ministerial resignations — including of Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab — and a push for a no-confidence motion against Prime Minister Theresa May triggered a new political crisis, threatening the future of the deal thrashed out earlier this week.
  • Ms. May has shown no sign of giving in. She appealed to the public, pointing to the centrality of her deal for keeping Britain’s manufacturing sector (and associated jobs) alive, as well as avoiding a hard border in Northern Ireland, and ending free movement.
  • She warned that failing to unite behind the deal would lead to unknown consequences, taking Britain down a path of “deep and grave uncertainty.”
  • She also warned, “We can choose to leave with no deal. We can risk no Brexit at all. Or we can choose to unite and support the best deal that can be negotiated.”
Chaos in House as Rajapaksa refuses to endorse vote
  • A group of Sri Lankan lawmakers resorted to an assault on the Speaker, when the House descended into chaos just as former President Mahinda Rajapaksa sought snap elections.
  • Hurling verbal abuses at Speaker, MPs backing Mr. Rajapaksa marched up to the Speaker’s chair, after refusing to participate in a vote on their leader’s address in the House. Through a no-confidence motion on Wednesday, 122 MPs had voted out Mr. Rajapaksa.
  • However, refusing to acknowledge the vote passed by the House, Mr. Rajapaksa and his purported government continued claiming legitimacy in office.
  • Mr. Wickremesinghe’s United National Party (UNP) immediately sought a floor test on Mr. Rajapaksa’s demand and the Speaker called for a vote by name. However, for the second consecutive day, Mr. Rajapaksa and his MPs rejected the option.
  • Later, the Speaker, along with party leaders, decided to reconvene the session on Friday afternoon.
  • In a separate development, President Maithripala Sirisena met the Speaker and leaders of parties that had voted against Mr. Rajapaksa.
  • According to a statement from his office, Mr. Sirisena expressed his objection to part of the no-confidence motion tabled on Wednesday. The parties, the statement said, agreed to reword it and take it up again on Friday.


Fitch retains rating for India at ‘BBB-’
  • Fitch Ratings retained India’s sovereign rating at ‘BBB-’, the lowest investment grade rating, although maintaining its stable outlook.
  • The company added that the economy would shrug off any lingering effects of demonetisation and GST during 2018-19 and 2019-20.
  • “India’s rating balances a strong medium-term growth outlook and favourable external balances with weak fiscal finances and some lagging structural factors, including governance standards and a still-difficult, but improving business environment,” Fitch said.
  • The agency said that a favourable economic growth outlook supported India’s credit profile, even though real GDP growth fell to 6.6% in financial year 2017-18.
  • “Fitch forecasts growth to rebound to 7.3% in FY19 and 7.5% in FY20, as a temporary drag will fade from the withdrawal of large-denomination bank notes in November 2016 and the introduction of a GST in July 2017,” the agency said.
  • “The GST is an important reform, however, and is likely to support growth in the medium term once teething issues dissipate,” it added. “India’s five-year average real GDP growth of 7.1% is the highest in the APAC region and among ‘BBB’ range peers.” 
  • “The RBI is building a solid monetary policy record, as consumer price inflation has been well within the target range of 4% +/- 2% since the inception of the Monetary Policy Committee in October 2016,” it added. 
  • It added that monetary tightening could be brought forward in case recent government policies such as the MSP hike for agricultural goods push up inflation expectations.
Trade deficit rises to $17.13 bn
  • India’s merchandise trade deficit widened in October to $17.13 billion due in large part to a higher oil import bill, official data released showed.
  • The trade deficit is wider than the $14.61 billion seen in October of last year and the $13.98 billion in September 2018.
  • “Exports in October 2018 were $26.98 billion, as compared to $22.89 billion in October 2017, exhibiting a positive growth of 17.86%,” a release said. 
  • This growth in exports marks a rebound from the contraction of 2.15% seen in September in dollar terms.
  • The major commodities that saw stronger growth in exports compared with last year include engineering goods (8.87%), petroleum products (49.38%), gems and jewellery (5.48%), organic and inorganic chemicals (34.01%), and drugs and pharmaceuticals (12.83%).
  • “Imports in October 2018 were $44.11 billion (₹3,24,774.78 crore), which was 17.62% higher in dollar terms and 33.07% higher in rupee terms over imports of $37.50 billion (₹2,44,064.20 crore) in October 2017,” the government said.

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