Current Affairs for SSC CGL Exams - 14 March 2018

SSC CGL Current Affairs

Current Affairs for SSC CGL Exams - 14 March 2018

::NATIONAL::

Linking Aadhaar extended indefinitely: SC

  • The Supreme Court indefinitely extended the deadline for linking Aadhaar with mobile phones, tatkal passports and for opening bank accounts from March 31, 2018 till the Constitution Bench led by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra pronounces its final verdict on the validity of the Aadhaar scheme.
  • Remarking that it has had enough of “piecemeal” notifications and legislations issued by the government to link one service or the other, Chief Justice Misra said it is time the court stepped in and stopped passing interim orders extending the deadline.
  • There should be a sense of certainty that citizens would not be harmed or their services curtailed even as the very Aadhaar scheme is under the apex court’s microscope.
  • On December 15 last year, the Bench had extended the Aadhaar linkage deadline from December 31, 2017 to March 31, 2018. It had however, even then concluded that the Aadhaar-PAN linkage was valid.
  • The order is more or less identical to the interim order passed on December 15 except for the fact that March 31, 2018 continues to be the deadline for linking Aadhaar to subsidies, benefits and services prescribed under Section 7 of the Aadhaar Act of 2016.
  • Despite submissions made by senior advocate Shyam Divan and advocate Vipin Nair that the indefinite extension of the deadline should include all services, including those under Section 7, the court restricted its relaxation of the deadline to services outside Section 7.
  • The March 13 order itself does not dwell on why the extension was not made applicable to benefits under Section 7.
  • Section 7 of the Aadhaar Act says that the Centre and State governments can insist on Aadhaar “for the purpose of establishing identity of an individual as a condition for receipt of a subsidy, benefit or service for which the expenditure is incurred from the Consolidated Fund of India.”
  • To undergo authentication to access services under Section 7, an individual has to either produce his Aadhaar card or Aadhaar enrolment application.
  • Lawyers for the petitioners hint that the court may have excluded Section 7 benefits from the extension because it is statutorily protected by the Aadhaar Act itself, whereas the other linkings like mobile phones are based on other statutes or even executive notifications.
  • The fact that time is running out for linking Aadhaar and citizens should not be left in a state of uncertainty was highlighted by one of the judges, Justice D.Y. Chandrachud, on the Aadhaar Constitution Bench itself.
  • “We are dealing with the entire financial system… We cannot let this state of uncertainty prevail… We cannot tell them, like on March 27, whether the deadline is extended or not… A banker cannot be expected to seek compliance from customers within seven days,” Justice Chandrachud had said on March 7.

No Foreign Law firms, but can Fly-in-Fly-out

  • Keeping India’s legal market exclusively for Indians, the Supreme Court ruled that foreign law firms or foreign lawyers cannot practise law in the country either on the litigation or non-litigation side.
  • This means overseas lawyers or firms cannot open offices in the country, appear in courts or before any authority or render other legal services such as giving opinions or drafting documents.
  • Upholding similar verdicts of the Bombay and Madras High Courts, a Bench of Justices Adarsh Kumar Goel and Uday Umesh Lalit, however, said there was no bar on foreign law firms or foreign lawyers visiting India for a temporary period on a “fly in and fly out” basis.
  • It is for giving legal advice to their clients on foreign law or their own system of law and on diverse international legal issues.
  • “We hold that the expression ‘fly in and fly out’ will only cover a casual visit not amounting to ‘practice’,” the Bench said, adding that any dispute in this issue would be decided by the Bar Council of India.
  • The court also ruled that foreign law firms and lawyers did not have an “absolute right” to conduct arbitration proceedings and disputes arising out of contracts relating to international commercial arbitration.
  • Though they might not be debarred from conducting arbitration in India arising out of international commercial arbitration, they would be governed by the code of conduct applicable to the legal profession in India.
  • The court said Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) companies providing a range of services to customers like word processing, secretarial support, transcription and proof reading services, travel desk support services and others would not come under the Advocates Act.
  • The ruling settles a long-standing argument on whether foreign firms or attorneys should be allowed to enter the Indian legal market.
  • Sections of the legal fraternity have been opposing their entry, contending that Indian advocates are not allowed to practise in the U.K., the U.S., Australia and other nations, except on fulfilling onerous restrictions like qualifying tests, experience and work permit.
  • It was also argued that foreign lawyers cannot be allowed to practise in India without reciprocity.
  • The closely watched case saw 32 law firms from various countries participating. They had argued that there was no bar on a company carrying on consultancy or support services.

Meteorites in Assam and Rajasthan can explain origin of life

  • A study of two meteorites, which fell in Assam and Rajasthan over a span of 13 hours in 2017, by the Geological Survey of India (GSI) has concluded that they may contain “significant clues to the origins of life.
  • Late on the evening of June 5 last, a meteorite weighing 3.014 kg fell in Natun Balijan village in Tinsukia, Assam.
  • Thirteen hours later, early on June 6, another meteorite, weighing 2.23 kg, fell in Mukundpura village under Sadiya subdivision near Jaipur.
  • Experts from GSI’s Meteorite and Planetary Science Division (the custodian of meteorites) studied both objects for over 10 months.
  • The Mukundpura one is a carbonaceous meteorite, one of the most primitive types.
  • They contain grains of calcium and iron, which date to a time before the sun came into existence.
  • They may contain clues to the formation of early life.
  • The impact of the meteorite, which fell on sandy farmland, created a hole six inches deep, with a diameter of nearly 43 cm.
  • The GSI now refers to the object as ‘Mukundpura carbonaceous meteorite.’
  • The GSI says this is a rare type of meteorite, since carbonaceous meteorites constitute only 3%-5% of all meteorite falls. Analysis has also revealed the presence of water-bearing minerals in the meteorite.
  • The GSI report says the meteorite is “believed to have the most pristine primordial matter recovered from space, which might carry important clues to the origin of early life.”
  • Meteorites mostly originate from the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.
  • The meteorite that fell in Natun Balijan in the flood plains of Lohit River, has been classified as an “ordinary chondrite.”
  • According to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, this is the most common type of meteorites, made of small grains of rock and believed to be mostly unchanged since the formation of the solar system.

India can be TB free by 2025: PM

  • Advancing India’s TB elimination goal by five years ahead of the global target, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said, “India is determined to address the challenge of TB in mission mode. I am confident that India can be free of TB by 2025.”
  • He was speaking at the inauguration of the Delhi End TB Summit here. The Prime Minister also launched the TB Free India Campaign on the occasion.
  • He said TB mainly affected the poorest of the poor and every step taken towards the elimination of the disease was a step towards improving the lives of the poor.
  • Mr. Modi said State governments played a very important role in the elimination of TB.
  • “Thus strengthening the spirit of cooperative federalism, I have personally written to the State governments to join in this mission,” he said.
  • The Prime Minister said front-line workers played a crucial role in TB elimination along with the people who had demonstrated great courage in defeating this disease.
  • Also present on the occasion were Union Minister for Health J.P. Nadda; Minister of State for Health and Family Welfare Anupriya Patel; Director-General, WHO, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus; former director, Stop TB Partnership, Ms. Lucica Difiu; along with Health Ministers from 20 countries.

Law on Contract Farming: TN Govt.

  • The Tamil Nadu government is contemplating framing a law on contract farming.
  • This follows a revised text of the model law prepared by the Central government and sent to all States recently.
  • In December 2017, the Union Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare sent the initial text of the legislation, called Agricultural Produce & Livestock Contract Farming and Services (Promotion & Facilitation) Act.
  • After incorporating views from different sections, the Ministry, a few weeks ago, circulated a fresh text of the proposed law to all the States.
  • Defining the concept of contract farming as a “pre-production season agreement between farmers (individually or collectively) and industry, the Union Ministry, in its communication, says the provisions of the proposed law have been aimed at “building a win-win framework” for the two principal parties.
  • Once contracts are entered into between the parties, the risk of post-harvest market unpredictability will get transferred from the farmers to the industry.
  • There will also be latitude of greater partnership between the two parties whereby the latter agrees to manage professionally inputs, technology, extension education and pre and post-harvest infrastructure and services, as per mutually agreed terms.
  • Among the salient features of the model law is the constitution of an “appropriate and unbiased state level agency,” which will consist of officials, experts in agriculture, representatives of farmers and constituents of the industry such as food processors, seed processors, exporters, bulk buyers linked with retail chain and those engaged in poultry/broiler sector.
  • At the level of district or block or taluk, there will be a committee to have registration of contract farming sponsors or the industry.

Centre’s plan t setup legal sector for foreign players affected

  • The Supreme Court’s ruling that the ‘practice of law’, as allowed and regulated in India, includes work on both the litigation side and on non-litigation services means that the Centre may not be able to throw open the legal services sector to overseas players.
  • Both the present regime and the previous United Progressive Alliance government were considering a proposal to permit foreign law firms in the country to practise law in matters not involving litigation and on a reciprocal basis.
  • In 2011, the Union Law Ministry had informed the Madras High Court that it was holding consultations with the Bar Council of India to consider amending the Advocates’ Act for the purpose.
  • It was filing an additional affidavit on a plea by an advocate seeking legal action against 30 foreign law firms that were “illegally practising” in the country.
  • Sections of the legal fraternity have been opposing the entry of foreign firms for nearly two decades.
  • There was opposition from bar associations in the country after a committee was set up by the Commerce Ministry to consider opening up legal services in 2005. Lawyers were against the country succumbing to international pressure.
  • Their main objection was that Indian law firms would not be able to compete with foreign firms and that the latter had greater money power and may control the legal market.
  • Also, they argued that people could practice law only if they were citizens possessing a law degree from a university in the country and enrolled in the Bar Councils.
  • Foreign law firms, backed by their respective governments, have been asking not for the right to practice in Indian courts, but only for access to the non-litigation market, which has seen an exponential increase after globalization.
  • In particular, international commercial arbitration has taken off in a big way.
  • The government had backed plans to allow foreign firms to appear in international commercial arbitration proceedings to represent overseas clients.
  • Barring them in the arbitration sector would scupper India’s ambition to be a global arbitration hub, and only help Singapore, London or Paris take over these arbitration opportunities.
  • The court has recognized only limited access to foreign players in arbitration.
  • It should be limited to matters governed by an international commercial arbitration agreement.
  • Even then, the code of conduct applicable to the legal profession in India has to be followed, it has said.
  • The government was hoping the domestic legal services industry would drop its resistance if the opening up was restricted to non-litigation work.

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::INTERNATIONAL::

Trump fires Tillerson

  • Mike Pompeo, now Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), will replace Rex Tillerson as U.S. Secretary of State, President Donald Trump announced.
  • Mr. Pompeo will take charge once his appointment is confirmed by the Senate.
  • “Mike Pompeo, Director of the CIA, will become our new Secretary of State. He will do a fantastic job! Thank you to Rex Tillerson for his service!,” Mr. Trump tweeted.
  • Mr. Trump said he disagreed with Mr. Tillerson on several issues, such as the Iran nuclear deal, while he got along well with Mr. Pompeo.
  • Mr. Pompeo, a former Republican lawmaker who rose through the ultra-right Tea Party Movement, has been a fierce opponent of the Iran nuclear deal. As CIA Director, he made a statement that appeared to support regime change in North Korea. He has also been a climate sceptic.
  • Gina Haspel, Deputy Director of the CIA, will succeed Mr. Pompeo. She will become the CIA’s first woman director.
  • Mr. Tillerson, who was heading petroleum giant Exxon, did not have any experience of political or diplomatic office when Mr. Trump chose him as Secretary.
  • The exit of Mr. Tillerson comes after months of speculation about his strained relations with the President.

::ECONOMY::

CAG on Railway Finances

  • The reported operating ratio of 96.5% in 2016-17 does not reflect the true financial performance of Indian Railways.
  • As this would have deteriorated to 99.54% if the actual expenditure on pension payments was taken into account, according to the CAG report tabled in Parliament.
  • An operating ratio of 99.54% means that Railways is spending 99.54 paise to earn 100 paise.
  • “Had the actual amount Rs. 40,025.95 crore required to meet the expenditure on pension payments of Zonal Railways been appropriated to the Pension Fund [instead of Rs. 35,000 crore], the total gross working expenditure of IR would have increased to Rs. 1,64,537.93 crore and the operating ratio would work out to 99.54%,” the Comptroller and Auditor General of India said.
  • Even at 96.5%, the operating ratio was at its poorest level since 2000-01 when it was 98.34%.
  • Pitching for revisiting the passenger and other tariffs to reduce losses in core activities, the CAG said there was hardly any justification for not fully recovering the cost of passenger services in the case of AC First Class, First Class and AC 2-Tier class.
  • “However, since one of the factors for not recovering full cost from these classes could be the issue of free and concessional fare passes [or] tickets to various beneficiaries in good numbers, this practice needs to be scaled down,” it added.
  • The CAG said passenger fares and freight charges should be based on the cost involved so that it brings both rationality and flexibility in pricing, considering the financial health of Railways and the current market scenario.
  • “Non-availability of sufficient funds in Depreciation Reserve Fund to replace the overaged assets is indicative of weak financial health of Indian Railways,” it said, adding that the huge backlog of renewal and replacement of over aged assets in railway system needs to be addressed for safe running of trains.
  • There is a need to strengthen internal control mechanisms to reduce instances of misclassification of expenditure, the CAG said.
  • “The unsanctioned expenditure should be controlled; administration should ensure all unsanctioned expenditure is regularised on priority,” it said.
  • Further, the CAG said that the Indian Railways should follow the system of disclosing significant accounting policies forming the basis of preparation of financial statements such as accounting of fixed assets, depreciation and investments.

Will protest against commercial mining: Unions

  • Four trade unions have announced their decision to observe a day’s strike on April 16, 2018 to protest against commercial mining of coal.
  • The notice was served by the Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh, the All India Trade Union Congress, the Hind Mazdoor Sabha and the Centre of Indian Trade Unions.
  • The Indian National Trade Union Congress (INTUC) will not be part of the agitation, but would work on doubling production, athough they are opposed to commercial mining.
  • Ramendra Kumar, general secretary of the AITUC-affiliated Indian Mine Workers Federation said that the strike notice had been served on the Coal Secretary on March 13.
  • “As the government is unwilling to reconsider the decision of commercial coal mining, we have no other option except to go on strike,” the unions said in the notice.
  • Public sector Coal India Ltd. (CIL) and the joint sector Singareni Collieries Company Ltd. (held by the Centre and the Andhra Pradesh government) would come under the strike purview.
  • About 2.9 lakh workers of CIL and 50,000 workers of SCCL were likely to be covered by the strike, Mr. Kumar said.
  • The INTUC said it condemned the NDA government’s decision to allow commercial mining to private companies using the relevant clauses of the Coal Mines Special Provision Act, 2015.
  • “This meant that the decision of coal nationalisation was being reversed as CIL and SCCL will die in due course if cheap coal is mined by private companies through slaughter-mining,” the INTUC-affiliated Indian National Mineworkers Federation said in a press release.
  • R.K. Chib, vice-president of the Indian National Mine Workers Federation said that the INMF would not participate in strike, but its members would wear black badges to work.

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