Daily Current Affairs

17 August Current Affairs – Daily News



U.N. Security Council meeting on Kashmir: Stop terror to start talks, India tells Pakistan- Sriram Lakshman #GS2 #IR


Reiterating that issues around Article 370, i.e., special status to Jammu & Kashmir, were an internal matter, India played down the significance of Friday’s UN Security Council’s “closed consultation” meeting on Kashmir.


Indian Ambassador to the UN Syed Akbaruddin accused Pakistan and China of attempting to impart greater significance to the meeting than was warranted. After the end of the Security Council’s closed consultations, we noted that two states who made national statements tried to pass them off as the will of the international community.


The Security Council is a very deliberative… institution. It works in a very considered manner. Its outcomes are provided to all of us through the [UNSC] President. So if national statements try to masquerade as the will of the international community, I thought I will come across to you too and explain our national position,” he said, adding that Article 370 is an entirely internal matter of India with no external ramifications.


Neither India nor Pakistan were part of the UNSC closed-consultations, which are informal meetings that do not have a formal outcome. Sometimes “press elements” can be agreed by consensus of the UNSC members, but no such statement emerged from Friday’s meeting.


Mr. Akbaruddin told reporters that the abrogation of Article 370 was done to enhance good governance and socio-economic development in Jammu and Kashmir and that the UNSC consultations had taken note of this.


Mr. Akbaruddin, speaking after his Chinese and Pakistani counterparts and in sharp contrast to them, took questions from reporters, including from Pakistan.


The Chief Secretary of the Union Territory of Jammu & Kashmir announced a whole set of measures that the government is undertaking to move towards normalcy. We are gratified that the Security Council in its closed consultations appreciated these efforts, acknowledged them and indicated that this was the direction in which they would like the international community to move,” he said.


The ambassador also said India was committed to all agreements it had signed on the issue and said India would sit down to talk with Pakistan when the latter’s support for terror ceased. “Stop terror to start talks,” he said.


India’s commitment to address these issues on the bilateral track has very broad acceptance globally,” Mr. Akbaruddin said, in response to a question on Russia’s view that the issue be resolved bilaterally between India and Pakistan, contrary to what Pakistan was seeking at the UN on Friday.



On concerns about human rights abuses by India in Jammu and Kashmir, he said India had a commitment to democracy and its courts would resolve any issues.


There will be issues discussed and if there are issues these will be addressed by our courts. We don’t need international busybodies to try and tell us how to run our lives. We are a billion-plus people,” he said.


Support for bilateral talks


A diplomat from a UNSC Member State told The Hindu that the majority of UNSC members backed a bilateral dialogue in accordance with the Simla Agreement.


“The dominating feeling there [at the consultation] was that all UNSC members pay close attention to the situation; according to many of them, considering that this is a bilateral dispute, the priority should therefore go to a bilateral dialogue, in accordance with the Simla agreement, with the aim to appease the tensions. The lifting of restrictions by India is perceived as a good and needed measure,” the diplomat told The Hindu.


China’s view


The first to speak was China , a permanent member of the 15- member UNSC. China’s UN envoy Zhang Jun said UNSC members had “serious” concerns about the situation including the human rights situation.


“It’s the general view of members that parties concerned should refrain from taking any unilateral action that might further aggravate the tension there,” he said.


Mr. Zhang said that it was China’s view that the Kashmir issue is an international and undecided one and must be peacefully resolved in accordance with the UN charter, UNSC resolutions and bilateral agreements.


“What should be pointed out is that India’s action has also challenged China’s sovereign interests and violated bilateral agreements,” Mr Zhang said, saying China was seriously concerned about the issue.


China and India share a disputed border in the Aksai Chin region of Ladakh.


Pakistan’s view


Pakistan’s UN Ambassador Maleeha Lodhi said the fact that the UNSC consultation was held signified that the issue was not internal to India and that Pakistan stands ready for a “peaceful settlement” of the dispute.


“I think today this meeting nullifies India’s claim that Jammu and Kashmir is an internal matter for India. Today the whole world is discussing the occupied state and the situation there. As the Chinese ambassador emphasised, the human rights situation in Jammu and Kashmir, and it is an abysmal human rights situation with violations carried out with impunity by India – that too has been discussed by the Security Council today.”



Ms. Lodhi quoted Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahood Qureshi as saying this was the first step Pakistan was taking on behalf of the people of Jammu and Kashmir.






Jammu and Kashmir restrictions: Supreme Court counsels patience- Krishnadas Rajagopal #GS2 #Governance


The Supreme Court prescribed patience over positive judicial action for Jammu and Kashmir while hearing Anuradha Bhasin, executive editor of Kashmir Times, who is challenging the state of curfew and media restrictions imposed by the Centre across the Valley.


Justice S.A. Bobde offered his telephonic conversation with the Jammu and Kashmir High Court Chief Justice as proof that the landlines were already working.


This is the second Bench of the Supreme Court that has decided to ‘wait and watch’ while the government handled the unfolding of events in Jammu and Kashmir.


The ongoing curfew was imposed in the Valley on August 4, preceding the issuance of a Presidential Order the next day, which blunted Article 370 and scrapped the special rights and privileges enjoyed by the people of Jammu and Kashmir since 1954. Subsequently, Parliament reorganised the State of Jammu and Kashmir into two new Union Territories — Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh.


Recently, a Bench led by Justice Arun Mishra, on a similar petition filed by activist Tehseen Poonawalla, opted to wait a fortnight without passing any positive judicial orders. Mr. Poonawalla had claimed the clampdown threw a cloak of isolation over the Valley.


Ms. Grover argued that there were severe curbs placed on the movement of photojournalists and reporters, which should be immediately relaxed in order to ensure the freedom of the press and media. Ms. Grover said restrictions were curbing the rights of journalists under the provisions of Articles 14 and 19 of the Constitution and the right to know the conditions of residents of Kashmir Valley.


Earlier on in the hearing, the CJI expressed the court’s indignation on the fact that out of a total six petitions filed on the J&K issue by various parties, most of them were found to be defective. Mr. Sharma said he was injured — the reason for his dark goggles and handkerchief — and this could have impaired the drafting of the petition. He was granted time to amend his petition.


We wish you early recovery from your injury, but meanwhile do not injure your reputation,” the Chief Justice addressed Mr. Sharma.






No First Use’ nuclear policy depends on circumstances: Rajnath Singh #GS2 #IR



The future of India’s No First Use (NFU) policy on nuclear weapons depended on “circumstances,” Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said from the nuclear test site in Pokhran on Friday. August 16, 2019, marks the first death anniversary of former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, under whose government India conducted nuclear tests in 1998.


Pokhran is the area which witnessed Atalji’s firm resolve to make India a nuclear power and yet remain firmly committed to the doctrine of NFU. India has strictly adhered to this doctrine. What happens in future depends on the circumstances.


Mr. Singh added that India attaining the status of a responsible nuclear nation became a matter of national pride for every citizen of the country and, for this, the nation would remain indebted to the greatness of Vajpayee.


India has put in place its nuclear doctrine with NFU and massive retaliation forming its core tenets soon after it tested nuclear weapons in the summer of 1998. The concept of maintaining a minimum credible deterrence and a nuclear triad for delivery of nuclear weapons based on aircraft, missiles and nuclear submarines flow from that.


Mr. Singh stopped over in Pokhran on the way to attend the closing ceremony of the 5th International Army Scout Masters Competition at the Jaisalmer military station.


Indian Army has won the competition that has eight participating teams from Armenia, Belarus, China, Kazakhstan, India, Russia, Sudan and Uzbekistan. India participated in the games for the first time. The competition is part of the International Army Games organised by the Ministry of Defence, Russia.






Rajasthan govt.’s bid to tackle child malnutrition #GS2 #Governance


The Congress government in Rajasthan is promoting the activities of the National Nutrition Mission (NNM) in a big way to tackle malnourishment among children and utilising the resources to ensure their health care and access to nutrition services.


Deputy Chief Minister Sachin Pilot, who visited Bamor village in his Assembly constituency of Tonk earlier this week to attend an NNM programme, said the budgetary allocations would be spent in a transparent manner to achieve the targets of nutrition.


Mr. Pilot said the government authorities and the public at large should work together for children’s nutrition through various activities, while an optimum utilisation of resources should be ensured to strengthen the institutions rendering child-centric services. He said about 40% of children below five years of age were malnourished in the country.


Railways told to furnish performance guarantee #GS3 #Economy


The National Green Tribunal directed the Railways to furnish a performance guarantee of ₹50 lakh in order to curb air pollution at a station in Haryana’s Rewari.


A Bench headed by NGT judicial member Justice Raghuvendra S. Rathore also asked the senior divisional commissioner manager of North West Railways to appear before the Tribunal on September 11 and provide an update on the work.


Stating that there are contradictory statements, the Bench observed, “For instance, it has been categorically submitted that the railway has erected 650m-long wall whose heights have been raised to 15m from 12m. Whereas, in the later part of the same para it has been deposed that a tender has been uploaded on the railway portal in respect of raising of the height of the boundary wall.”


It added that several other statements made by the Railways pertaining to the work completed were “categorically denied” by the State pollution control board.


Earlier, the green panel had constituted a joint team comprising representatives from the Central Pollution Control Board and the Haryana State Pollution Control Board to look into a plea that alleged air pollution caused due to loading unloading of cement and gypsum at the railway station.






Virtual court to deal with traffic challan to be launched today #GS2 #Governance


Doing away with the need for the litigant to be present in the court and facilitate adjudication of the case online, the Punjab and Haryana High Court will launch its first virtual court on Saturday at Faridabad through videoconferencing.


A Punjab and Haryana High Court spokesperson said the court would deal with traffic challan cases from across the State. The project will be launched under the guidance of e-Committee of the Supreme Court of India.


Under this project, the cases received in the virtual court can be viewed by the judge along with automatic computation of fines on the screen. After the summon is generated and the accused gets information on email or through a text message, the accused can visit the virtual court website and search the case by CNR Number, his/her name or even with the driving license number.


Once the accused pleads guilty online, fine amount will be displayed and accused might proceed to pay the fine. On successful payment and realisation of the fine amount, the case would be automatically disposed of.



The spokesperson said if the accused did not plead guilty, such cases would be remanded to the regular courts with the respective territorial jurisdiction.


The virtual court will reduce the burden on regular courts. The entire process of disposal will happen online in a few hours. Footfalls in the courts will reduce as the accused need not visit the court to plead guilty.






Odisha govt. nod to set up maritime board #GS2 #Governance


A proposal for establishment of the Odisha Maritime Board for administration, control and management of non-major ports and non-nationalised inland waterways was approved by the State Cabinet .


The Cabinet meeting, presided over by Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, decided that the Board will function as a single window facilitator for the overall maritime development of the State. Earlier a Bill was passed in 2011 for constitution of the Board but was withdrawn because some more issues were to be added.


Odisha is endowed with a vast coastline of 480 km, having rich, unique and natural port locations and perennial rivers. Out of the 14 sites identified for development of 14 non-major ports, two at Gopalpur and Dhamra are operational and two at Astarang and Subarnarekha are in the pipeline.


According to the proposal, the Board will provide policy, guidelines and directions for the integrated development of ports and inland water transport keeping in view of the country’s security and defence related concerns.


The salient features of the Board will be to provide construction, maintenance and operation of all non-major ports in the State directly or through PPP mode.


The Board will be constituted with 12 members, the Chief Secretary as the chairperson along with representatives of stakeholders departments as well as representatives of the Central government.


Among other proposals, the Cabinet also gave its approval for financial restructuring of the Odisha State Road Transport Corporation by which old dues of the Corporation and the State government will be settled forever.






ISRO arm begins search for PSLV makers- Madhumathi D.S. #GS3 #SnT



NewSpace India Ltd, the new public sector space business company, launched a formal search for industry consortia which can regularly manufacture and deliver entire PSLV satellite launch vehicles for its parent, the Indian Space Research Organisation.


It will initially outsource five PSLVs — Indian rockets that can lift light payloads to ‘low earth orbits’ some 600 km in space. NSIL has called a pre-bid meeting of potential parties on August 26. The four-stage PSLV is needed to place both Indian remote sensing satellites and small satellites of foreign customers to space.


NSIL was formed in March this year to promote Indian space commerce. In its first tender it invited expressions of interest or EoIs from one or more experienced companies or consortia to produce the launchers end to end: their job starts from component procuring, electronics, to large stages and finally the assembly, integration and testing (AIT) of the vehicles. Selected parties can use ISRO facilities where required.


In the August 16 document titled ‘EoI for PSLV production by Indian industry consortium’, NSIL said, “With a target of producing 12 PSLVs per annum through Indian industry, NSIL/ ISRO, as a first step, is looking forward to [realising] 5 PSLVs,” through selected companies or consortia.


Upon successful and satisfactory completion of realisation of 5 PSLVs, NSIL/ISRO will enhance the scope to 12 PSLVs per annum under a separate contract.


At the Bengaluru Space Expo held a year ago, ISRO Chairman K. Sivan had urged industries to relieve ISRO of the manufacturing burden, saying the space agency must do 59 launches by 2021 and needed a PSLV strike rate of two a month.


Of the over ₹6,000 crore sanctioned last year for the cost of 30 PSLVs required during 2019-24, 85% of the money would go to industries. ISRO currently sources separate rocket parts from around 500 big and small vendors and does the AIT itself at its facilities in Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh.


For almost a decade, it has been planning to hand the production over to public and private industries and itself focus on its core job of space R&D. On the satellite side, groups of industries are already helping ISRO in AIT at the Bengaluru-based U.R. Rao Satellite Centre and have produced a couple of mid-sized satellites.


ISRO also has two increasingly more powerful launchers in that order — the GSLV and the GSLV-Mk III, used to lift 2,000 kg and 4,000 kg communication satellites to higher orbits.






India gets its first national essential diagnostics list- Bindu Shajan Perappadan #GS2 #Governance



India has got its first National Essential Diagnostics List (NEDL) finalised by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) which aims to bridge the current regulatory system’s gap that do not cover all the medical devices and in-vitro diagnostic device (IVD). The current system is equipped to manage only the few notified devices.


With this, India has become the first country to compile such a list that would provide guidance to the government for deciding the kind of diagnostic tests that different healthcare facilities in villages and remote areas require.


WHO released first edition of essential diagnostics list (EDL) in May 2018. Even though WHO’s EDL acts as a reference point for development of national EDL, India’s diagnostics list has been customised and prepared as per landscape of India’s health care priorities.


NEDL builds upon the Free Diagnostics Service Initiative and other diagnostics initiatives of the Health Ministry to provide an expanded basket of tests at different levels of the public health system.


He said implementation of NEDL would enable improved health care services delivery through evidence-based care, improved patient outcomes and reduction in out-of-pocket expenditure; effective utilisation of public health facilities; effective assessment of disease burden, disease trends, surveillance, and outbreak identification; and address antimicrobial resistance crisis too.


While affordability of diagnostics is a prime concern in low, middle-income countries like India, low cost, inaccurate diagnostics have made their way into the Indian market which has no place in the quality health care system,” said a senior official at ICMR.


“The list also encompasses tests relevant for new programmes such as Health and Wellness Centres (HWCs) under the Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana. In addition to tests, corresponding IVD products have also been recommended,” he added.


Key role


Diagnostics serve a key role in improving health and quality of life and the ICMR has noted that the key challenges anticipated during implementation of the National EDL include — “Adoption by States and harmonisation with local standard diagnostic protocols and treatment guidelines, provision of requisite infrastructure, processes and human resources, ensuring quality of tests including EQAS and quality control and adequate utilisation of EDL tests for making informed decisions for treatment protocols.”


In India, diagnostics (medical devices and in vitro diagnostics) follow a regulatory framework based on the drug regulations under the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940 and Drugs and Cosmetics Rules 1945. Diagnostics are regulated under the regulatory provisions of the Medical Device Rules, 2017.






Forex reserves at new life-time high of $430.57 bn #GS3 #Economy



India’s foreign exchange reserves surged by $1.620 billion to $430.572 billion in the week to August 9 on rise in foreign currency assets, according to the latest RBI data released on August 16. In the previous reporting week ended on August 2, the reserves had declined by $697.2 million to $428.952 billion.


In the reporting week, foreign currency assets, a major component of the overall reserves, increased by $15.2 million to $398.739 billion, the apex bank said on August 16. Expressed in dollar terms, foreign currency assets include the effect of appreciation/depreciation of non-US units like the euro, pound and yen held in the reserves. The country’s gold reserves surged by $1.591 billion to $26.754 billion, according to data.


Special drawing rights with the International Monetary Fund were up by $6.7 million to $1.441 billion.


The country’s reserve position with the fund rose by $7 million to $3.636 billion.






Boost for start-ups as norms eased for shares with differential voting rights #GS3 #Economy


The government has relaxed norms for shares with differential voting rights that will help companies retain control while raising equity capital. With the amended rules, companies can now have up to 74 per cent Differential Voting Rights (DVR) shares of the total post issue paid-up share capital. The limit was earlier only 26 per cent.


The Ministry of Corporate Affairs (MCA) has amended the Companies (Share Capital & Debentures) Rules under the Companies Act, MCA said in a statement on Friday. “Another key change brought about is the removal of the earlier requirement of distributable profits for three years for a company to be eligible to issue shares with DVRs,” it said.


The norms for shares with DVRs have been amended to enable promoters of Indian companies to retain control “in their pursuit for growth and creation of long-term value for shareholders, even as they raise equity capital from global investors,” the release said.


It would also “strengthen the hands of Indian companies and their promoters who have lately been identified by deep-pocketed investors worldwide for acquisition of controlling stake in them to gain access to the cutting-edge innovation and technology development being undertaken by them,” the MCA said.


According to the ministry, the initiatives have been taken in response to requests from innovative technology companies and start-ups.


Further, the ministry noted such Indian promoters have had to cede control of companies that have prospects of becoming Unicorns due to the requirements of raising capital through issuance of equity to foreign investors. Generally, unicorns are start-ups that have a market valuation of at least USD 1 billion.





US appeals against WTO ruling favouring India in renewables case #GS3 #Economy


The US has appealed against a WTO panel ruling favouring India. In its complaint, India had alleged that local content requirements and subsidies for the renewable energy sector in several American states were discriminatory and against multinational rules.


The appeal, which was discussed at the WTO’s Dispute Settlement Body (DSB) meeting on Thursday, however, may not be taken up by its the global organisation’s Appellate Body, as it could become dysfunctional in December.


A WTO panel had ruled in June in favour of India, which claimed that subsidies and mandatory local content requirements in 11 renewable energy programmes in eight American states — Washington, California, Montana, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Michigan, Delaware and Minnesota — are inconsistent with global trade rules.


The panel had asked Washington to bring the states in conformity with US obligations under the “national treatment” rules that require foreign entities to be treated at part with domestic producers.


Judges’ appointment


“By appealing against the panel ruling and also not allowing Appellate Body judges to be appointed, the US is literally bringing the dispute settlement mechanism of the WTO to a grinding halt. Something needs to be done by the WTO Secretariat and members soon to ensure that the Appellate Body keeps functioning after December, too,” a government official said.


The US has been blocking the appointment of judges in the Appellate Body claiming there are ‘systemic issues’ that need to be sorted out. From December 11, the Appellate Body will cease to have the mandatory three members required for its working and may thus become dysfunctional.


Sugar subsidies row


Another important decision taken by the DSB was to agree to the second requests from Australia, Brazil and Guatemala for the establishment of panels to rule on India’s sugar subsidies. New Delhi, however, declined requests from the three to set up a single dispute panel.


“India declined requests from the three complainants for a single panel to review the complaints jointly on the grounds that they are similar, arguing that each case was distinct,” a Geneva-based official told BusinessLine.


The complainants had alleged that India’s subsidies for its producers exceeded its WTO spending limit of 10 per cent for the product. India’s response is that its sugar subsidies are permissible under WTO rules.



“The DSB will now set up three separate panels…and the cases will be fought separately,” the official explained.


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