Current Affairs for SSC CGL Exams - 6 January 2018

SSC CGL Current Affairs

Current Affairs for SSC CGL Exams - 6 January 2018

::NATIONAL::

Adultery law to be looked at by Supreme Court

  • The Supreme Court on referred to a Constitution Bench a plea to decide if the pre-Independence provision of adultery in the Indian Penal Code, Section 497, treats a woman as a commodity owned by her husband and violates the constitutional concepts of gender equality and sensitivity.
  • A three-judge Bench, led by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, said it was time to reconsider the consistent view from 1954 onwards that the penal provision was necessary to uphold family ties.
  • Terming the penal provision as archaic, a three-judge Bench led by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra said it was time to reconsider its past decisions and consistent view from 1954 onwards that the penal provision was necessary to uphold family ties.
  • Section 497 mandates that if a man has sexual intercourse with another’s wife without the husband’s “consent or connivance”, he is “guilty of the offence of adultery and shall be punished.”
  • The court had issued notice on December 8, 2017 on a petition filed by Joseph Shine, represented by advocates Kaleeswaram Raj and Suvidutt M.S. The Bench observed in the order that the provision raised a question mark on social progress, outlook, gender equality and gender sensitivity.
  • It was time to bring to the forefront a different view with focus on the rights of women, Chief Justice Misra observed.
  • The Constitution Bench would likely consider whether Section 497 would treat the man as the adulterer and the married woman as always a victim.

Women can be inducted in territorial army

  • Clearing the path for the induction of women in the Territorial Army, the Delhi High Court observed that any provision that bars them from joining the force was against the Fundamental Rights provided under the Constitution.
  • Territorial Army is an organisation of volunteers who receive military training in order to be mobilised for the country’s defence in case of an emergency.
  • “Women are eligible for recruitment and appointment to the Territorial Army under Section 6 of the Indian Territorial Army Act, 1948,” a Bench of Acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice C. Hari Shankar said.
  • It said the government has not given any rationale to justify its action of enforcing a bar against recruitment of women in the force.
  • The court noted that more and more countries have moved away from positions of total prohibition to permitting recruitment of women even in combat roles in the armed forces. It listed around 22 countries, including the U.S., U.K., Canada and Australia, which permit recruitment of women even in combat roles.
  • Section 6 of the Territorial Army Act lays down rules on who is eligible for enrolment in the Territorial Army, which is also known as the second line of defence after the regular Army.
  • The High Court said the words “any person” in Section 6 shall include both men and women.
  • The court order came after a PIL was filed by lawyer Kush Kalra seeking to quash the provisions in the Territorial Army Act which prohibit gainfully employed women from being recruited in the force.
  • Contending that not allowing women to join amounted to “institutionalised discrimination” and went against the Constitution’s spirit, the petitioner claimed the state had a duty to ensure no discrimination was practised by anyone in the country.
  • “At present, Territorial Army recruits only males [gainfully employed]. Due to this institutionalised discrimination, women are being deprived of their right to serve in the Territorial Army,” the petition said. The role of the Territorial Army, in which actor Mohanlal, and cricketers Kapil Dev and M.S. Dhoni are honorary members holding senior ranks, is to “relieve the regular Army from static duties and assist the civil administration in dealing with natural calamities....”
  • It also helps in maintenance of essential services in situations where life is affected or the security of the country is threatened, the petition said.

Label mandatory for food certified as ‘organic’

  • The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) had issued regulations that required food companies selling organic produce to get certified with one of the two authorities — National Programme for Organic Production (NPOP) or the Participatory Guarantee System for India (PGS-India). Companies could also get a voluntary logo from the FSSAI that marked its produce as ‘organic.’
  • Though NPOP and PGS-India had been in the certification business for some years, it was mostly a voluntary exercise. “From July, any company that claims to sell organic food and not sticking to standards can be prosecuted,” Pawan Aggrawal, CEO, FSSAI told
  • “Labelling on the package of organic food shall convey full and accurate information on the organic status of the product. Such product may carry a certification or quality assurance mark of one of the systems mentioned in addition to the Food Safety and Standard Authority of India’s organic logo,” said a FSSAI notification on January 2 and published in the Gazette. These rules were finalised after almost a year of being sent out as a draft for public comments.
  • For nearly two decades now, organic farming certification had been done through a process of third party certification under the NPOP. It was run by the Ministry of Commerce and was used for certifying general exports. Nearly 24 agencies were authorised by the NPOP to verify farms, storages and processing units and successful ones got a special ‘India Organic’ logo.
  • The PGS-India programme, in contrast, had been around for only two years and — unlike the top-down approach of the NPOP — involves a peer-review approach. Here, farmers played a role in certifying whether the farms in their vicinity adhered to organic-cultivation practices. This programme was implemented by the Ministry of Agriculture through the National Centre of Organic Farming.

SC says the new Haj policy is fair

  • The Centre defended its new Haj policy, saying it is not discriminatory and the allocation of subsidy for pilgrims is based on the objective criterion of Muslim population in each State.
  • The Centre was responding to allegations made by the Kerala State Haj Committee that the policy, which allots subsidised seats based on the Muslim count in each State, denies Muslims from smaller States such as Kerala an opportunity to make the pilgrimage.
  • “Bihar has a quota of 12,000 seats, but at least 5,000 seats remain vacant. Kerala has 95,000 applicants who want subsidy, but the quota is only for 6,000 seats. So, only one per cent goes,” Prashant Bhushan, advocate appearing for the Kerala Haj panel, submitted.
  • Countering this, Attorney-General K.K. Venugopal argued that the allocation of subsidy quota on the basis of Muslim population of a State had been there from the very beginning and did not start with the current Haj guidelines for 2018-22.
  • The Bench, led by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, made it clear that the court would intervene in the Haj policy only if it is found to be “palpably arbitrary”.
  • “This is a matter of policy,” Justice D.Y. Chandrachud orally remarked even as the court asked the Centre to file a detailed counter-affidavit by January 13, the next date of hearing.
  • Mr. Venugopal said the central Haj committee was consulted before the new policy was finalised. “The State Haj Committees are bound by the policy of the central Haj body. Each and every stakeholder was consulted. Now they cannot turn around and say this is not the right way to do Haj,” Mr. Venugopal argued.

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::INTERNATIONAL::

U.S. move against Pak. ‘welcome first step’

  • New Delhi and Washington have been in close touch over the decision, and Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar met U.S. Ambassador to India Kenneth Juster, hours after the U.S. administration, , as part of its “South Asia strategy”, announced that it would suspend all security assistance to Pakistan unless it acts against terror groups targeting Afghanistan.
  • “It is a welcome first step. [We] hope it will get Rawalpindi [Pakistan’s military] thinking,” a senior official told though the government issued no formal reaction to the development.
  • India had issued statements welcoming the U.S.’s South Asia strategy announced by President Donald Trump in August, and its new National Security Strategy issued in December, both of which called upon Pakistan to take action against terror safe havens that target U.S. troops in Afghanistan, or face consequences.
  • First, the U.S. announcement did not come as a surprise, as it came three months after the Trump administration notified the U.S. Congress that it would not disburse the 2016 tranche of its Foreign Military Funding (FMF) of $255 million.
  • On January 1, the U.S. President made it clear that the action was imminent after he accused Pakistan of “lies and deceit” on the issue and threatened that the U.S. would continue to fund Pakistan “No More!”
  • As a result, it is understood India would rather not speak about what is essentially a bilateral action between U.S. and Pakistan, even as it strengthens its own counter-terrorism cooperation with the US. Last month’s India-U.S. counter-terrorism designations dialogue was one such new effort.
  • Finally, experts say there is scepticism about whether the U.S. action will effect the desired reaction from Pakistan, if it relates only to the funding of about $255 million and possible $900 more in Coalition Support Funding, without further action.
  • In 1981, President Zia-ul-Haq had famously referred to a U.S. offer of $250 million for Afghan refugees as “peanuts”, said a former Ambassador to Afghanistan and Secretary in the Ministry, Amar Sinha. “If the figure was peanuts nearly four decades ago, think of what it would mean today.”
    According to Mr. Sinha and other former diplomats, the U.S. move to cut aid to Pakistan on the issue of its support to terror has been made in the 1970s, 1990s, and more recently by the Obama administration in 2011 as well.
  • “Mr. Trump has shown he is different in many ways,” said Arvind Gupta, former Deputy NSA and Director of think-tank Vivekananda International Foundation. “But follow-up action from the U.S. will have to be seen as well. The U.S.’s dependence on Pakistan for assistance in its operations in Afghanistan has not completely ended yet.”

Trump regime suspends security aid to Pakistan

  • The U.S. said it is suspending most of its security assistance to Pakistan until it “takes decisive action against groups, including the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani Network”.
  • The announcements from the State and Defence Departments followed a public condemnation of Pakistan by President Donald Trump on January 1.
  • The total amount in question could exceed a billion dollars, though no official figure was provided. The decision will delay, and perhaps eventually deny, pending payments to Islamabad. This includes both payments under the State Department’s Foreign Military Financing and under the Coalition Support Fund, which involves reimbursement by Pentagon for Pakistan’s logistical support in the Afghanistan war.
  • However, civilian assistance programmes are not included and exceptions may be made on a case-by-case basis if they are “determined to be critical to national security interests,” administration officials said.

::ECONOMY AND BUSINESS::

GDP growth seen slowing to 6.5%

  • “In agriculture, what we are seeing is a base effect because last year saw a very high growth rate because it followed two years of drought,” Statistics and Programme Implementation Secretary and Chief Statistician of India TCA Anant said at a press conference here.
  • “In terms of production, the total production would probably be the second highest in a very long time. It is not unusual growth in agriculture in a good year,” he said.
  • The CSO’s GVA full-year growth estimate of 6.1% compares with a 6.7% pace that the Reserve Bank of India had forecast at its December policy meeting.
  • The central bank had at the time flagged rising oil prices and “shortfalls in kharif production and rabi sowing” as posing downside risks to the outlook for GVA growth.
  • “These numbers have a bearing on the fiscal deficit numbers for this year and next year as well,” said D.K. Srivastava, chief policy advisor at EY India.
  • “For this year, the nominal growth is expected to be far lower than what was estimated in the Budget, so the fiscal deficit number will have to be adjusted if the 3.2% of GDP target is to be maintained. And, for next year, the base is now lower, so that year’s fiscal deficit figure will also have to be adjusted.” Mr. Srivastava added
  • Other economists cited the latest PMI survey showing an uptick in manufacturing, and said the economy had regained momentum in recent quarters, signalling growth would rebound in the next fiscal year.
  • “Economic activity has been picking up over the last three quarters and can be expected to strengthen in the coming period with the manufacturing PMI [Purchasing Managers’ Index] now reading at a five-year high of 54, and FMCG demand picking up briskly,” Vice Chairman of NITI Aayog Rajiv Kumar said in a written statement. “Hence, the GDP growth will become more robust in 2018-19.”
  • While the latest CSO estimates project private final consumption expenditure, a proxy for household spending, growing by 6.3% in 2017-18, down from 8.7% in the previous year, gross fixed capital formation — a key investment metric — is expected to accelerate to 4.5%, from 2.4% in 2016-17.
  • “The advanced estimates for annual growth of 6.5% can be achieved if we have an average of 7% growth in the last two quarters of this fiscal,” said Ranen Banerjee, Partner - Public Finance and Economy at PwC India.
  • “Given the momentum in core sector growth, PMI indices and developed world economies, the optimism may not be belied,” Mr. Banerjee said.
  • “Further wearing off of the demonetisation related residual effects as well as progressively stabilising the transitionary effects of GST is likely to support the higher growth rate estimates for the last two quarters,” Mr. Banerjee added.

India’s Public stockholding of grains would not be affected

  • India’s ongoing public stockholding programmes would remain unaffected and continue, Commerce Minister Suresh Prabhu informed the Rajya Sabha. The minister’s assurance comes in the wake of the recent Eleventh Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organization failing to reach a permanent solution on public stockholding for food security purposes.
  • In a statement, Mr. Prabhu said the conference had agreed to extend an existing moratorium on imposing customs duties on electronic transmission in exchange for another moratorium preventing the evergreening of patents in the pharmaceuticals sector.
  • Regarding the permanent solution to the public stockholding issue, Mr. Prabhu said: “Quite logically, in addition to fulfilling the obligation placed by the Bali/Nairobi mandate, India viewed this as an opportunity for achieving an outcome that would be an improvement over the existing interim solution through less onerous transparency and disclosure conditions, no additional safeguards in respect of programmes already covered by the interim solution and greater legal certainty.”
  • However, some developed countries sought explicit language on existing safeguards, according to Mr. Prabhu, and the U.S. said it could not agree to a permanent solution.
  • “Our public stockholding programmes, however, continue to be protected due to the interim solution that the government negotiated in 2014, which is available in perpetuity,” he said. “An existing moratorium on imposing customs duties on electronic transmission was extended for two years in exchange for another moratorium on trade-related aspects of intellectual property rights non-violation complaint, which, inter alia, prevents ‘evergreening’ of patents in the pharmaceutical sector, thereby ensuring accessibility and affordability of generic medicines.”
  • “The above decisions are in line with India’s position in the matter,” Mr. Prabhu added. “This is a major achievement for India.”
  • Mr. Prabhu said that members could not arrive at an agreement regarding a ministerial declaration following the conference.
  • “Ministers could not arrive at an agreed ministerial declaration at the end of the conference on the basis of a draft brought forward from Geneva,” the minister said.
  • “As the revised draft ministerial declaration subsequently proposed by the chairperson excluded or failed to adequately include important issues such as multilateralism, the Doha Development Agenda and special and differential treatment of developing countries, India could not support it,” he added.

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