India’s commitments at ISA Founding Conference at New Delhi
India announced one of the world’s largest investment plans in solar
energy at the Founding Conference of the International Solar Alliance (ISA).
The $1.4 billion line of credit will cover 27 projects in 15 countries
and boost the much-required financial power to the solar sector.
“India will provide assistance to 15 countries for $1.4 billion. I am
happy to announce that to fill the gap of solar technology, India will start
a solar technology mission with international focus, which will cover all
government technical and educational institutions,” Prime Minister Narendra
Modi said, announcing the unprecedented investment.
The Founding Conference was co-chaired by Mr. Modi and French President
Mr. Modi presented a 10-point action plan aimed at making solar power
more affordable while raising the share of power generated.
“We have to increase the share of solar in the energy mix,” Mr. Modi
The solar energy sector, facing a challenge of funding, received
considerable support at the conference.
Mr. Macron, while pointing to the withdrawal of the U.S. from the Paris
Agreement on climate change, praised those who stayed the course to support
the solar power on a global scale.
France was committed to providing an additional €700 million in loans
and support by 2022 to emerging economies for solar energy projects, he
Mr Macron is heading to Mirzapur where he will inaugurate a 100 MW solar
Mr. Macron identified three issues to be addressed — the solar energy
potential in each country should be be identified; mobilisation of finance;
and the provision of a favourable framework.
He said the member countries of the ISA would ensure distribution of
finance and expertise.
The conference was attended by 23 heads of states and governments from
all over the world, including Mr. Modi and Mr. Macron.
Vice President advices MPs to be responsible
Referring to the Parliament proceedings last week which were washed out
by protests, Vice-President M. Venkaiah Naidu, who is the Rajya Sabha
Chairman, said that more than the government and the Opposition, it was the
people of the country who lost out in such a situation.
Addressing the valedictory session of the National Legislators’
Conference here, Mr. Naidu said there was no place for banners, placards or
shouting in the House.
He said the inviolability of the question hour should be maintained. Mr.
Naidu stressed that public representatives must introspect on their conduct.
“We came to this House by shouting slogans, by pasting posters, by
holding placards. But inside the House, there is no place for all this,” he
He said parliamentarians need to be more regular to the House.
“It is ironical that there are 543 members in the Lok Sabha and 245
members in the Rajya Sabha, yet sometimes you have to press the quorum bell.
Some say it is the government’s responsibility, some say it is Opposition’s
responsibility. I would say it is a joint responsibility of both,” Mr. Naidu
The four Cs
The Vice-President said that it was the four Cs — character, calibre,
capacity and conduct — that made a good leader.
“But some people are replacing it with three Cs — caste, community and
cash. That can never be a substitute. It may help you temporarily, but it is
the four Cs and the contribution you make to public life that will help make
you the leader,” he said.
Mr. Naidu said the disruptions in Parliament had left him disturbed and
He asked both the Union and the State governments to increase the number
of sittings of Parliament and Assembly.
Give details on claims to forest lands: SC
The Supreme Court has ordered State governments to provide details of
the number of claims for the grant of land under the provisions of the
Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of
Forest Rights) Act of 2006.
A Bench of Justices Madan B. Lokur, Kurian Joseph and Deepak Gupta, on a
batch of petitions including that of Wildlife First, said it wanted updated
information on claims to forest lands, encroachments and evictions.
The court said the claims for grant of land should be those made by the
Scheduled Tribes and separately by other traditional forest dwellers, along
with the number of claims rejected by States in respect of each category.
It called for information on the extent of land over which such claims
were made, number of rejections in respect of each of the two categories and
the action taken against those claimants whose claims were rejected.
The court, in its March 7 order, asked for the status of eviction of
those claimants whose claims were rejected and the total extent of area from
which they were evicted.
The States have to provide the extent of the area in respect of which
eviction has not yet taken place in respect of rejected claims.
The Bench said it wanted information to be provided in four weeks and
listed the matter for hearing on April 18.
The court recorded that the petitioners had challenged the
constitutional validity of the Act as well as legislative competence of
Parliament to enact the statute.
Noting that the forests and wildlife are in a “critical state,” the
petitioners have indicated that they would want a performance audit by the
Comptroller and Auditor General of India or by any other appropriate
Criminal charges on 1756 law makers
The Centre has informed the Supreme Court that 1,765 members of
Parliament and the Assemblies have criminal cases against them.
Of a total 3,816 cases against them, 3,045 are still pending.
Uttar Pradesh tops the list with 248 legislators, Tamil Nadu comes
second with 178 and then Bihar follows with 144.
The affidavit by the Centre is its first response after the Supreme
Court Bench led by Justice Ranjan Gogoi, in November 2017, directed the
setting up of special courts to try legislators exclusively within a year.
The Centre has undertaken to set up 12 such courts.
The affidavit said that of the Rs. 78 crore allocated for setting up the
courts in 11 States, Rs. 65.04 lakh was released in 2017.
The balance will be released during 2018-19. Tamil Nadu has been
allotted Rs. 65 lakh for a year.
Compiling information received mostly from the High Courts, the Centre
said 125 cases were decided against lawmakers in one year.
The Supreme Court had on November 1 directed the Centre to place before
it details of cases involving MPs and MLAs, as declared by the politicians
at the time of filing their nominations during the 2014 general elections.
The apex court had directed the government to frame a central scheme for
setting up special courts across the country to exclusively try criminal
cases involving “political persons”.
The court is hearing a PIL plea filed by Supreme Court advocate Ashwini
Upadhyay who has sought a lifetime ban on convicted politicians to cleanse
politics of criminality and corruption.
IAF and it shopping problems
Almost two decades after it began a search for a fighter aircraft, the
Indian Air Force is back to square one.
The IAF will begin the search again to arrest its falling squadron
strength, as the Union government had scrapped the medium multi-role combat
aircraft (MMRCA) tender after ordering 36 Rafale fighters from France in
Earlier, the IAF was looking for a single-engine jet to replace the
MiG-21s and MiG-27s.
The new jets were to be manufactured in India by the private industry
under the Strategic Partnership model. However, the contest is now being
“The contest for single-engine jets has only two contenders and it would
end up being a single-vendor situation on technical evaluation. So it has
been decided to widen the contest to avoid issues later,” the official said.
While the Lockheed Martin F-16 and SAAB Gripen are single-engine
fighters, the contest will be now open to Boeing F-18, Dassault Rafale,
Eurofighter Typhoon and Russian MiG-35, all of which were part of the
earlier MMRCA contest.
The open tender will essentially be MMRCA all over again.
In 2000, the government decided to procure 126 fighter jets, but it was
only in 2007 that the RFI, the first step in the long procurement process,
was issued for 126 aircraft under the MMRCA deal expected to cost around $12
However, with contract negotiations reaching a deadlock, in 2015, Prime
Minister Narendra Modi scrapped the deal and announced an Inter-Governmental
Agreement with France for 36 Rafales at a cost of €7.87 billion, including
aircraft, spares, weapons and a maintenance and performance guarantee for
Under the new deal, the IAF is looking for over 100 aircraft, and the
official said that whether single- or twin-engine, the aircraft were equally
competent and the final choice would depend on the extent of technology
transfer and price.
Another reason for widening the tender is for the selection of a
competent Indian partner. In anticipation of a single-engine tender,
Lockheed and SAAB had tied up with prospective Indian partners.
“The Indian SP partner has to be selected by the government through a
competitive evaluation. So it is good to have a wider pool of both OEMs
[original equipment manufacturer] and Indian partners to choose from,” the
One defence official observed that procuring at least two more squadrons
of Rafale jets would make economic, operational and logistical sense as
India is spending €2 billion on IAF-specific customisations and 36 is too
small a number.
“It makes logical sense and would save us money as the additional
aircraft would cost less. But in the current political climate, it is not
possible,” he said.
The IAF has a sanctioned strength of 42 squadrons but is currently down
to 31 squadrons and with the planned induction of 36 Rafales between 2019
and 2022, remaining Sukhoi-30MKI and some LCA Tejas, the strength will hover
at 30 till 2027 and in the subsequent five-year term, will fall to 27.
If there are no newer inductions, it is expected to slide further to 19
squadrons by 2042.
Resounding support for Constitutional Amendments in China
Chinese lawmakers resoundingly endorsed changes in the Constitution,
which would empower President Xi Jinping to weather headwinds that challenge
China’s new stage of transition.
Out of a total of 2,964 members of the National People’s Congress (NPC),
who voted on constitutional amendments, only two opposed a proposal that
removes the limit on the tenure of the President to two consecutive
There were three abstentions to the revision floated by the Communist
Party of China (CPC).
With the changes in China’s basic law, Mr. Xi can now serve as President
indefinitely. He already wields real power as the CPC’s General Secretary —
a post that has no term limit.
Mr. Xi also heads the powerful Central Military Commission — the apex
body that marshals the People’s Liberation Army (PLA).
Besides, lawmakers at the NPC, China’s parliament, also included Mr.
Xi’s political doctrine — ‘Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese
Characteristics for a New Era,’ as part of the amended Constitution.
Prior to Mr. Xi, only the founding father of the People’s Republic of
China, Mao Zedong, and the late paramount leader Deng Xiaoping have their
personal ideologies engraved in the Constitution.
The constitutional change that entrenches Mr. Xi’s power was a foregone
But going far beyond the mandatory two-thirds majority requirement, the
near-unanimous vote conveys the impression of deep consensus in the
establishment for backing President Xi.
The 21 items in the Constitution that were revised include provisions
for setting up a National Supervisory Commission — an anti-corruption super
Analysts say voting marks a “new point of inflexion” in the four decades
history of reforms pioneered by Deng.
RBI set for Special audit on PSB frauds
Rattled by a spate of banking frauds, RBI has initiated special audit of
State-owned lenders with focus on trade financing activities, especially
relating to issuance of letters of undertaking (LoUs) by them, banking
In addition, the RBI has asked all banks for details of the LoUs they
had issued, including the amounts outstanding, and whether the banks had
pre-approved credit limits or kept enough cash on margin before issuing the
Most of the big banking frauds, which were unearthed in the recent past,
including the one perpetuated by diamantaire Nirav Modi and his associates,
pertain to trade finance.
Also, many of the wilful default cases have their roots in trade
finance, the sources told PTI.
In view of the recent Rs. 12,646-crore PNB scam, perpetuated through
fraudulent issuance of LoUs with the connivance of the bank’s staff, it was
pertinent for the regulator RBI to examine the issue of trade finance which
also included issuance of letters of credit (LC) and LoUs.
The government recently asked the State-owned banks to scrutinise all
cases of non-performing assets (NPAs) exceeding Rs. 50 crore for possible
fraud and report the matter to the Central Bureau of Investigation.
Banks have also been asked by Finance Ministry to come up with a
“pre-emptive” action plan in a fortnight to combat rising operational and
technical risks, and assign clear accountability to senior functionaries.
Broder package for Financial Reforms for resolving NPA: IMF
The IMF has said that the recapitalisation of India’s public sector
banks should be part of a broader package of financial reforms to speed up
the resolution of their massive non-performing assets, which has attracted
attention in the backdrop of the Nirav Modi case.
Recent policy reforms to address vulnerabilities in the banking and
corporate sectors in India have been significant, International Monetary
Fund Deputy Managing Director Tao Zhang said ahead of his visit to India.
According to a recent Assocham-Crisil study, India’s banking sector will
be saddled with gross non-performing assets (GNPAs) worth a staggering Rs.
9.5 lakh crore by March-end, up from Rs. 8 lakh crore a year-earlier.
“We think the PSB recapitalisation should be part of a broader package
of financial reforms to speed up the resolution of NPAs, improve PSB
governance, reduce the role of the public sector in the financial system,
and enhance bank lending capacity and practices,” Mr. Zhang told PTI in an
He added the Indian economy now seemed to be on its way to recovering
from disruptions caused by demonetisation and the roll-out of the goods and
“With the economy expanding by 7.2% in the latest quarter, India has
regained the title of the fastest-growing major economy, Mr. Zhang said.
Calling this development a ‘welcome change’, Mr. Zhang said the growth
prospects remained positive.
Two factor authentication to protect enterprise applications
A majority IT professionals in India expect their organisations to start
using two-factor authentication to protect enterprise applications in the
future, with almost half expecting this to happen within the next year,
according to a private survey.
“[as much as] 78% believe the use of two-factor authentication to
protect applications in the future will increase within the next year,” said
the survey conducted by digital security firm Gemalto.
It added that biometric and one-time password-based authentication would
be the preferred mode.
Almost all respondents said that two-factor authentication would be able
to contribute towards their organisation’s ability to comply with data
protection regulations and pass security audits.
The use of two-factor authentication method is a part of organisations’
efforts to ‘consumerise’ the login process to ensure ease of use while
strengthening the security.
Majority organisations believe that the authentication methods they
implement in their businesses are not as good compared with those found on
popular sites, including Amazon and Facebook.
The survey was conducted amongst 1050 IT decision-makers in the
three-month period from September-November 2017 globally.
According to the survey, in India, more than 50% of the respondents
believed that web portals and cloud/mobile applications were the biggest
targets for cyberattacks.