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Current Affairs: 3 December 2018

NATION

If Pak. wants, India can help: Rajnath
  • Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh said that Pakistan could seek India’s help if it could not handle the fight against terrorism alone.
  • At a press conference here, he said there had not been any major terrorist incident in the country in over four years of the NDA government.
  • Mr. Singh also said terrorism and not Kashmir was the issue between the two countries. Kashmir, he said, was an integral part of India.
  • Terrorism is confined only to Kashmir where the situation is improving, Mr. Singh said, adding that panchayat election in J&K is being conducted successfully. “The government has brought Jammu and Kashmir into the political process. As far as terrorism is concerned, there is no second thought that it is Pakistan-sponsored,” the Home Minister said.
  • Naxal-related incidents have come down by 50-60% in the past four years, he said. The violence has reduced from 90 districts to only 8-9 districts and the problem, he predicted, will get eliminated in the next three to five years.
New CEC Arora seeks support for ‘fair’ polls
  • Sunil Arora, 62, a retired 1980-batch IAS officer of the Rajasthan cadre, took over as Chief Election Commissioner (CEC).
  • Mr. Arora sought the cooperation of political parties and people to make elections “totally free, fair and ethical.”
  • The Lok Sabha election, which is due next year, will be conducted by the Election Commission under Mr. Arora.
  • He will also hold elections to the Assemblies of Sikkim, Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Odisha, Maharashtra, Haryana, Jharkhand, Delhi, Bihar and Jammu & Kashmir.
  • He will be in office till April 12, 2021.
  • After assuming charge, Mr. Arora said: “All of us in the commission shall continue to put our best foot forward to meet the expectations of all the stakeholders, strictly in consonance and in conformity with the vision and ideals of the Constitution of India, especially the Preamble thereof.” He added that internal preparations for the Lok Sabha election had begun sometime back.
  • “We will try to meticulously prepare on all fronts, whether it is the electoral roll, EVMs, VVPATs disseminations through our very credible programme of SVEEP (Systematic Voters’ Education and Electoral Participation), ensuring voting rights through electronically transmitted postal ballot system..., and give the country a fair, credible, free, impartial and ethical election,” said Mr. Arora.
  • He said the committee appointed to review various facets of Section 126 [which bars publication of election-related matter in the last 48 hours leading to polls] of the Representation of the People Act would submit its report for the perusal and consideration of the Commission by December 30.
Right to know: Now just drop into a govt. office to access information
  • Citizens seeking data from the government under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, can now simply land up at the concerned office on Monday afternoons and study the relevant files, as per a fresh decree from the Devendra Fadnavis administration.
  • Apart from smoothening access to information, the move is also expected to help curb the rising number of pending appeals with the Maharashtra State Information Commission from applicants against departments denying or withholding information. By the end of September 2018, 39,709 appeals and complaints were pending since 2014.
  • In case there is a public holiday on Monday, information can be accessed on the next working day.
  • Former Central Information Commissioner Shailesh Gandhi termed this is an useful order for citizens and suggested that people carry a copy of the official order the first time they visit government offices, because there is going to be denial from officials initially.
  • “RTI applications have been on the decline for the last two years. Because, a citizen finds that the system is obscuring and blocking the information. Then they get tired and don’t have time and energy to follow up,” explained Mr Gandhi.
‘70 lakh jobs were created in 2017-18’
  • Terming the criticism of jobless growth during the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government “spurious”, NITI Aayog Vice-Chairman Rajiv Kumar has said that 70 lakh jobs were created in the financial year 2017-18 alone.
  • Mr. Kumar further said that growth in sales of transport vehicles, huge disbursement of Mudra loans and Employees’ Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO) data show that enough opportunities for employment and self-employment were created over the past four years of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government.
  • He further said if unemployment was rising in the country, then real wages in both rural and urban regions should decline, but that was not happening. “So, what is the basis for this [criticism of jobless growth during the NDA regime]? I think, the purpose is negative discourse for political aims and does not reflect economic reality,” he said.
  • Replying to a question on protests by farmers in some parts of the country, he said: “We have increased minimum support price (MSP) for farmers by huge amounts. The rural economy is in good shape, farmers’ income is rising.”
India to host G20 summit in 2022
  • For the first time, India will host the annual G20 summit in 2022, when the country celebrates its 75th anniversary of Indepen- dence.
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi made the announcement at the closing ceremony of the 13th G20 summit here in the Argentinian capital on Saturday.
  • He thanked Italy for allowing India to play the host. Italy was to host the summit in 2022.
Polls come and go, but Sahariyas’ plight still poor
  • The Sahariya tribal community of the Shahbad region in Baran district, which recorded 47 starvation deaths during the 2001 drought, waits for concerted welfare measures that could take them out of poverty, unemployment and malnutrition. Though politicians have made a promise against starvation, the tribe’s economic condition is yet to reach a reasonable level.
  • Though the 70,000-strong community has been classified as a particularly vulnerable tribal group because of low development indices, the benefits of additional days of work under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme and the supply of essential items under the Antyodaya Yojana are not fully available to them.
  • Lakhan Sahariya, a tribal activist from Unee village in Shahbad tehsil, says daily wage labour and agriculture are the main sources of livelihood in the region, but the payments under the MGNREGS are not made on time, while wheat and ghee are supplied on festive occasions.
  • Mr. Sahariya, 33, who earlier worked with the Bharat Gyan Vigyan Samiti, says several youth from the community have obtained government jobs following special efforts, but “concerted measures” are required for the welfare of the landless tribal people in the remote villages. 
  • The Congress candidate from Baran-Atru, Panachand Meghwal, told that the Special Reservation Bill for Sahariyas, implemented by the Ashok Gehlot government in 1999, had immensely benefited the tribal people and opened new opportunities for them.
  • Mr. Meghwal said the BJP regime had distorted the Congress government’s scheme for supply of 25 kg of wheat in the region on each ration card by restricting the supply on the basis of number of members in a household. “As a result, the deserving families are not getting the benefit. This is one of the several instances of the BJP’s anti-poor approach. They remember Ram temple during elections instead of working for the betterment of the poor.”
  • The Baran chapter of the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) has taken up the task of preserving the tribal art of mandana, which is drawn on floor and walls as a mark of celebration and to protect home and hearth. INTACH district convener Jitendra Sharma said each mandana painting was accompanied by a different song, which had been catalogued and recorded.
India, U.S. Air Forces to begin joint drill today
  • The Air Forces of India and the U.S. will begin a 12-day military exercise in the Kalaikunda and Panagarh air bases in West Bengal on Monday with an aim to enhance operational coordination, officials said.
  • The ‘Ex Cope India-18’ will be the fourth edition in the series of bilateral drills between the Indian Air Force and the U.S. Air Force. This is for the first time, the exercise is being held at two Air Force bases, the officials said.
  • “The aim of the exercise is to provide operational exposure and undertake mutual exchange of best practices towards enhancing operational capability,” the IAF said in a statement.
  • The U.S. has sent a fleet of F15 C/D and C-130 military aircraft. The IAF is participating with the Su-30 MKI, Jaguar, Mirage 2000, C-130J and AWACS (Airborne Warning and Control System) aircraft.
WORLD

U.S., China decide to hold off fresh tariffs for 90 days
  • China and the United States agreed to halt additional tariffs in a deal that keeps their trade war from escalating as the two sides try again to bridge their differences with fresh talks aimed at reaching an agreement within 90 days.
  • The White House said that President Donald Trump told Chinese President Xi Jinping during high-stakes talks in Argentina that he would not boost tariffs on $200 billion of Chinese goods to 25% on January 1 as previously announced.
  • Beijing for its part agreed to buy an unspecified but “very substantial” amount of agricultural, energy, industrial and other products from the U.S., the White House said in a statement.
  • The two sides will also launch new trade talks to address issues,including technology transfer, intellectual property, non-tariff barriers, and agriculture, it said.
  • If no deal is reached within 90 days, both parties agreed that the 10% tariffs will be raised to 25%, the White House said.
  • Mr. Trump had imposed 10% on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods in September. China responded with its own tariffs.
  • The U.S. President has also threatened to slap tariffs on another $267 billion worth of Chinese imports, as the relationship appeared set to worsen in the weeks ahead of the Argentina meeting.
ECONOMY

RBI may maintain status quo on rates
  • Slowing inflation is likely to prompt the monetary policy committee (MPC) of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) to hold the key policy rate or the repo rate in the fifth bimonthly monetary policy review of 2018-19 scheduled.
  • The retail inflation rate — the yardstick used by the RBI for monetary policy purposes — slowed in October to 3.3%, the slowest pace in 13 months. Consumer price index-based inflation or retail inflation remained below the 4% target of the RBI for the third straight month. Inflation is likely to decline further as crude oil prices dropped below $60 a barrel in November.
  • While the central bank estimated retail inflation to be in the 3.9-4.5% range for the second half of the current financial year and 4.8% for the first quarter of 2019-20, Kotak Securities expects inflation to undershoot the RBI estimate.
  • The recent decision of the RBI to infuse ₹40,000 crore liquidity in December through open market operations has been seen as inadequate by market participa0nts. A report from Bank of America Merrill Lynch estimated the current liquidity deficit at ₹1 lakh crore, which could go up to ₹1.4 lakh crore after corporate advance tax outflows start by the middle of this month. 
  • “Our liquidity model estimates suggest that the RBI will need to conduct OMO of another ₹1.6 lakh crore in the March quarter. Alternatively, the RBI could cut CRR by 1% of bank book, releasing ₹1.2 lakh crore, to arrest lending rate hikes, with inflation [being] benign,” the report said.
  • “RBI should refrain from using the CRR now as liquidity is strained only in pockets and it is not a system-wide crisis, Kotak Securities said.
No local currency trade with India: China
  • China has not accepted India’s proposal to carry out bilateral trade in local currencies, which was aimed at bridging the ballooning trade deficit with the neighbour, an official said.
  • India’s exports to China stood at only $13.4 billion and imports aggregated to $76.4 billion in 2017-18, leaving a trade deficit of $63 billion. It was $51.11 billion in 2016-17.
  • India had mooted renminbi-rupee trade with China to boost exports and tackle the widening trade deficit concern. “They have not accepted the proposal,” the official said.
  • The issue was discussed in an inter-Ministerial meeting in October. In the meeting, it was suggested the Reserve Bank of India and the Department of Economic Affairs should look at the possibility of exploring renminbi-rupee trade with China.
  • India has also proposed trade in national currencies with other countries, including Russia, Iran and Venezuela with which New Delhi has a trade deficit.
WhatsApp seeks RBI nod to expand its payment services
  • The chief of WhatsApp has written to the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), seeking a formal nod to expand payments services to all its 200 million users in India.
  • The messaging app, which has drawn fire from the government over the spread of fake messages on its platform, continues to wait for a regulatory clearance to launch full-fledged payments operations in India — months after its ‘testing’ amassed nearly one million users — and almost two years since it first began discussions with the government on its payments services plans.
  • The development comes at a time when competitors such as Google have forged ahead with their payments offerings.